Be The Match says patient safety is a top priority.

WESTFIELD, NJ — The widely publicized death of the Westfield High School principal from complications that followed his donation of bone marrow in April could easily frighten would-be bone marrow donors, something family of the late school administrator, Dr. Derrick Neslon, hopes will not be the case.

In announcing a medical malpractice lawsuit in the case, an attorney for Dr. Nelson’s family this week told reporters that Dr. Nelson’s death was a consequence of an error in the administration of his anesthesia and not a result of the donation of bone marrow itself.

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“We’ve heard that people have had concerns about donating bone marrow, donating organs,” David Mazie said. “That’s not what is at issue here. This is certainly about the procedure but primarily about anesthesia.” He said the anesthesiologist erred by not properly accounting for Dr. Nelson’s sleep apnea.

The vast majority of bone marrow donations have not harmed donors. The blood and marrow transplant program at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey facilitated 255 transplants in 2016 and 2017, the most recent federal statistics available show.

Westfield is no stranger to the bone marrow donation process. When the late resident Darren Lederman was fighting acute myeloid leukemia in 2015, an unrelated donor provided him a bone marrow transplantation, giving him a boost in his fight to stay alive, a story then covered by TAPinto Westfield.

Lederman's wife, Stacey Lederman, then expressed appreciation to the donor.

“I can tell you that you are saving a husband, father of two young children, a son-in-law, uncle, cousin, friend, and one of the kindest, most generous, beyond selfless people on the Earth,” Stacey Lederman wrote to the donor. “You gave up a few hours of your life, to save my husband and family. You are a true angel.”

Stacey Lederman fears that Dr. Nelson’s story might have turned people away from the donation process.

“The public did such a bad job in saying he passed away from donating,” she told TAPinto Westfield. “I know that turned people away. … Someone said to me that people are stupid for donating bone marrow. Little did he know my experience.”

The CEO Be The Match, the National Bone Marrow Donor Program that helped to link Dr. Nelson with a boy who needed bone marrow in France, in a statement, told TAPinto Westfield that safety is a top priority for the organization.

“Marrow donation is a selfless act that helps save the lives of thousands of cancer patients each year,” said Dr. C. Randal Mills, CEO of Be The Match, following Dr. Nelson’s death.

“While privacy and confidentiality requirements prevent us from commenting on this specific case, we can share that donor safety is paramount and complications during the donation process are extremely rare.”

Staff Writer Matt Kadosh contributed to this story. Email him at mkadosh@tapinto.net

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