More trouble for Abortionist Steven Brigham

NJ abortion Dr. Steven Brigham accused of more violations
BEN NUCKOLS,Associated Press Writer • September 22, 2010

BALTIMORE — A New Jersey doctor cited by medical authorities for shuttling his patients to Maryland for late-term abortions is now accused of violating standards of care for two additional patients, including a woman from Canada whose nearly full-term fetus with Down syndrome was aborted.

The new accusations against Dr. Steven Brigham, 54, are contained in documents filed by the New Jersey attorney general’s office, which is seeking to have Brigham’s license suspended or revoked. Brigham has agreed to stop practicing medicine until a hearing next month before the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners.

In early August, Brigham performed an abortion for a 35-year-old Canadian who was 33 weeks pregnant, the documents show. The fetus had Down syndrome but was otherwise viable.

As with other patients, Brigham allegedly began the procedure in New Jersey, then instructed the woman to drive herself to Elkton, Md., where the fetus was removed. Brigham was not licensed to perform abortions on fetuses 14 weeks or older in New Jersey.

The procedure on the Canadian patient “seriously violated medical standard of care and, to my knowledge, is not sanctioned by any statute or regulation,” Dr. Gary Brickner wrote in an expert opinion to the medical board. He noted that the woman’s pregnancy “did not involve a fetus with a lethal defect or a condition dangerous to the mother’s health.”

It’s not unheard of for women to travel from Canada to the United States for late-term abortions that aren’t available in their provinces, said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, an association of U.S. abortion providers.

Only a doctor with access to the patient’s medical records could determine whether the abortion itself was medically or legally permissible, and different doctors could come to different conclusions, Saporta said. But Brigham violated standards of care regardless because he wasn’t licensed to perform the procedure, she said.

According to the documents, Brigham began dilating the Canadian patient’s cervix on Aug. 3 and administered a drug that killed the fetus. The next day, the woman was told to drive to Maryland, where the fetus was removed. It’s not clear from Brigham’s records who performed the abortion in Maryland, where Brigham was not licensed to practice medicine, the documents show.

Richard W. Westling, one of Brigham’s attorneys, did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday but has said previously that Brigham believes the procedures he performed were legal.

The documents also reveal a previously undisclosed case in which Brigham allegedly breached standards of care. The patient was 24 weeks pregnant and, like the Canadian patient, was given drugs to kill the fetus and dilate the cervix.

Brigham’s records indicate that the woman’s abortion would have been completed in Maryland, but instead, she went into labor and began bleeding heavily in her New Jersey hotel room, the documents show. Brigham treated her there, and she delivered the stillborn fetus at a hospital, according to the documents.

Brigham previously was accused of leading a caravan of three patients from his office in Voorhees, N.J., about 10 miles outside Philadelphia, to Elkton, Md., about 60 miles away, on Aug. 13.

A family doctor from Utah, Nicola Riley, botched the abortion for one of those patients, who had to have emergency surgery to repair her ruptured uterus and small intestine, documents show.

That patient’s case led to complaints being filed in Maryland against Brigham, who was ordered to stop practicing without a license. Maryland officials suspended the licenses of Riley and another doctor who worked for Brigham.

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