TRENTON — The doctor stripped of his license for committing “gross negligence”while performing late-term abortions is managing the seven clinics he used to own, according to a document released Tuesday by the state Board of Medical Examiners.
The revelation that Steven Brigham is still linked to American Women’s Services was contained in a 24-page decision from state’s physician disciplinary board that said the true ownership of the clinics ought to be decided by a judge.
The ruling is at least a temporary victory for Vikram Kaji, the clinics’ long-time medical director whom Brigham tapped to take ownership after the board revoked Brigham’s license in 2014. He had to divest himself from the business because the state requires medical practices to be owned by a physician.
In June, Deputy Attorney General Bindi Merchant asked the medical board to immediately suspend or revoke Kaji’s license for fraud, alleging the transfer from Brigham to Kaji was a “sham.”
Instead, an administrative law judge will decide the matter and turn the recommendation over to the board for a final decision.
N.J. Attorney General: Abortion doctor unlawfully owns clinics
The allegations accuse 79-year-old gynecologist Vikram H. Kaji of fraud for claiming he had assumed ownership of clinics after Steven Brigham’s license was yanked for gross negligence. Brigham has appealed the decision.
Merchant produced statements Kaji made to a state investigator in April and a committee of the board in May, denying he was the owner. “He expressly testified that ‘there is no other person around, (Brigham’s) the only one who runs the show,” according to the Merchant’s complaint.
But Joseph Gorrell, the attorney for both Kaji and Brigham, challenged the state’s case, producing records and new testimony from Kaji who he claimed was “confused” by the questions. No property had changed hands, and the business itself was losing money, so there was no actual sale, according to the decision.
Gorrell produced a contract that showed Kaji had hired Fidelity Venture Services, a management company owned by Brigham.
“He has absolutely no clinical responsibilities. He is acting as a manager which does not require a license,” Gorrell said. The management company was established long before the dispute, he added.
The board ultimately agreed that it could not move ahead on a decision about Kaji’s license under a summary judgment motion. “There are material facts that are genuinely disputed,” according to the decision.
“We are pleased with the decision, which we believe is correct because there are significant factual disputes in the case,” Gorrell said.
Marie Tasy, executive director for New Jersey Right to Life, said she “applauded the Attorney General for pursuing this case and hopes their case against Kaji and Brigham will prevail.”
“This is just more of the usual legal semantic gymnastics and abuse of the law we have come to expect from Brigham and Kaji,” Tasy added. “The fact that Brigham is still in charge of these clinics in an administrative capacity is deeply disturbing and in contravention of New Jersey law. The real losers in all of this are unsuspecting women who frequent these clinics.”
The board suspended Brigham’s license in 2010 after the state argued he used the two-state process to evade New Jersey’s requirement that terminating pregnancies must take place in a hospital or licensed health care facility after 14 weeks. Brigham did not have hospital privileges at the time and is not an obstetrician or a gynecologist. His license was revoked in 2014, but Brigham has appealed.
From his main office in Voorhees, Brigham inserted Laminaria, a device to expand his patients’ cervixes, and administered a shot of Digoxin to cause “fetal demise.” At his instruction, his patients later drove to drive to a clinic in Elkton, Md. where the fetus would be surgically removed by another doctor in consultation with Brigham.
One patient was severely injured during the medical procedure in Maryland and needed to be airlifted to a hospital.
Brigham was not licensed to practice medicine in Maryland, but he thought he was following Maryland law that allowed its doctors to consult with out-of-state physicians, his attorney said.
Susan K. Livio may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.