NJ Abortion Clinic Dr Found Incompetent. What Happens to the Troubled Clinics?

A judge has recommended yanking the medical license of Vikram Kaji, the 82-year-old, stroke-impaired director of a chain of abortion clinics in New Jersey, concluding he is not competent to practice medicine.

But the ruling says nothing about the implications for those clinics, which the state attorney general alleges were illegally transferred to Kaji by discredited abortion provider Steven C. Brigham.

Brigham, 62, whose record of botched procedures goes back decades in multiple states, lost his New Jersey medical license more than four years ago and was ordered to sell his clinics there, which are part of his multistate, Voorhees-based abortion network, advertised as American Women’s Services.

The attorney general has alleged that Brigham sought to keep controlling and profiting from the clinics by transferring ownership, for no money, to Kaji, a Mumbai-trained obstetrician-gynecologist who was disciplined in the mid-1990s for sexually abusing patients. Hearings were ordered three years ago to sort out whether Kaji was in effect Brigham’s puppet.

The state’s Board of Medical Examiners, which licenses physicians, has 45 days to adopt, change, or reject the ruling, or it automatically goes into effect.

The law firm representing Kaji and Brigham did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson said the Attorney General’s Office — which has said the state would “address the matter of ownership” after Kaji’s competency case was concluded — had no comment.

It was Brigham’s unlicensed practice of medicine at a late-term, cash-only abortion clinic that he secretly set up in Elkton, Md., that led to the revocation of his New Jersey license, the last of six that he lost, let lapse, or gave up.

But lack of licensure has not necessarily been a barrier to Brigham’s business because most states allow doctors to own medical practices even if they are not licensed. In Pennsylvania, for example, Brigham relinquished his license in 1992, yet owned clinics until 2010, when his persistent flouting of health and safety laws led regulators to ban him. It took them two more years to actually shut him down because he transferred ownership to his mother in Ohio.

American Women’s Services’ website now lists 15 clinics in three states, but several are closed. The site does not list a clinic in Florida and another in Washington, D.C., that records and media reports tie to Brigham.

At Kaji’s competency hearing in September, the New Jersey network — which Brigham has a contract to manage — was variously described as seven or nine clinics. Kaji said he traveled to seven, but could not name all the locations. Other employees said clinics are in Elizabeth, Voorhees, Woodbridge, Phillipsburg, Galloway, Hamilton, Englewood, Bridgewater, and Livingston. Neither Bridgewater nor Livingston is listed on the American Women’s Services’ website — but it does list “now closed” offices in Toms River and Paramus.

Although the Englewood clinic is open, it filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2017.

Brigham has yet to pay any of the $561,000 in penalties and prosecution costs that New Jersey imposed following his 2014 license revocation, according to the Attorney General’s Office. At that time, Brigham owed almost $500,000 to the IRS for not paying employee taxes.

Brigham hired Kaji in the mid-1990s while the ob-gyn’s license was restricted in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for improprieties including having sex with a patient in his office and improperly prescribing controlled substances for her.

Over the last five years, regulators have scrutinized Kaji’s medical performance and required him to undergo neurological evaluations in response to complaints. In 2017, he agreed to stop practicing medicine pending the competency hearing.

Betancourt wrote that he found Kaji “slow to answer and at times unsure” of his own medical history.

Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights reacted the same way to the ruling.

“We hope the decision will bring Mr. Brigham’s charade one step closer to being shut down permanently,” emailed the Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, interim CEO and president of the National Abortion Federation. “Brigham is a rogue doctor who operates outside recognized standards for quality abortion care.”

“The Brigham/Kaji charade has gone on long enough,” emailed Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life. New Jersey authorities “need to immediately shut down Brigham’s clinics.”

Abortionist Who Lost License Manages Clinics

NJRTL’s comment:

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.”

steven brigham abortion doctor
Steven Chase Brigham, seen in this file photo at a Board of Medical Examiners hearing, manages the abortion clinics he said he no longer owns. The state revoked his license in 2014.

Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on February 02, 2016 at 11:53 AM, updated February 02, 2016 at 4:45 PM

TRENTONThe 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

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 slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.