NEWARK – The Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners has revoked the license of Dr. Jonathan L. Fellus, a neurologist who engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient he had determined suffered an apparent mild brain injury, while she was under his treatment and was an outpatient in a cognitive rehabilitation program at an institutional facility in West Orange.
"The facts clearly show that Dr. Fellus engaged in a relationship with this patient, even though he knew or should have known she was suffering a diagnosed cognitive disorder and was physically debilitated by injuries she suffered in a car accident," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "This relationship violated long-standing ethical standards and a specific Board of Medical Examiners rule prohibiting sexual contact between physicians and their patients."
Fellus was placed on administrative leave by the facility and resigned in 2011. When the facility received confirmation of the conduct, it immediately contacted the Board. Fellus' most recent office address of record is Advanced NeuroCare LLC in Flanders.
"The Board of Medical Examiners' prohibition of sexual contact with patients is intended to protect those who are vulnerable and who are attempting to heal," Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. "The Board of Medical Examiners took the right action by revoking the license of this physician for violating this essential requirement."
As set forth in the Attorney General's Complaint, filed by the Division of Law:
The patient, then 33 years old, suffered injuries in a February 2008 automobile accident. After the accident, the patient suffered episodes of weakness, collapsing with loss of consciousness, seizures, emotional maladjustments, and physical injuries. Her treating neuropsychologist referred her to Fellus, who was the director of brain injury services at the West Orange rehabilitation facility. Fellus was to perform comprehensive assessment and treatment of her neurological and brain injuries.
Shortly after Fellus' first consultation with the patient in August 2008, the two entered into a relationship that eventually included sexual contact in examination rooms at the rehabilitation center and other locations. This conduct continued through March 2009, after which Fellus allegedly terminated contact.
Throughout the time of their relationship, the patient continued to suffer collapses and/or seizure episodes. Fellus had determined that the patient had suffered an apparent mild traumatic brain injury in addition to conditions including elements of post-traumatic stress disorder and episodes resembling features of seizure activity or autonomic dysfunction, among others. The institution's psychologist had found that the patient suffered neurocognitive dysfunction, post-concussive syndrome, and cognitive disorder.
The Board ordered the revocation of Fellus' license following a hearing on June 11, 2014. The Board determined that Fellus' conduct constituted gross malpractice, professional misconduct, lack of good moral character, and failure to comply with the Board's rule prohibiting sexual conduct with a patient.
The revocation of Fellus' license requires him to transfer all current patients to new physicians within 30 days and prohibits him from treating new patients. The Board also ordered him to pay a penalty of $10,000 and $34,450 in costs to the State. Fellus may apply for reinstatement no sooner than three years from the effective date of the revocation. He would then be required to appear before a Board committee which would assess his fitness to resume practice. He also would have to submit proof that he has continued psychotherapy, a comprehensive report from the treating psychologist, and proof of satisfactory completion of Board-approved courses in personal ethics and avoidance of boundary violations.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Joan D. Gelber, of the Division of Law's Professional Boards Prosecution Section, represented the State in this matter.