The Maryland Board of Physicians has suspended the license of a nationally known pain specialist, alleging that the Baltimore County psychiatrist traded drugs for sex with patients and handed out pain pills without proper prescriptions.
Dr. Nelson H. Hendler, medical director and founder of the Mensana Clinic in Stevenson, also is alleged to have had an affair with a patient. Investigators said he admitted having a romantic relationship with the woman, identified as "Patient A." The complaint said she accused him of shoving and choking her in a Baltimore hotel room on July 4, 2004.
The clinic, which Hendler founded in 1978, treats patients suffering from chronic pain, electrical shocks and lightning strikes. Four patients were living at the center earlier this month.
State medical board investigators visited the clinic Jan. 19, and Hendler stated he didn't know it was illegal to possess pills prescribed for other patients or reuse them. The doctor told investigators he was "playing Robin Hood" in order to help patients who didn't have insurance and couldn't pay for medications, according to the state complaint.
Baltimore County police seized more than 5,800 tablets that had originally been prescribed for more than 160 patients, including narcotics such as morphine and OxyContin, the complaint said. A police spokesman could not be reached to comment last night.
Hendler couldn't be reached to comment. A recording on the clinic's voice mail last night said that the clinic "is temporarily closed, and Dr. Hendler is not seeing any patients. We will advise all patients after Feb. 22 as to the status of our closing at that time."
The Board of Physicians has scheduled a Feb. 22 hearing on the suspension.
The state order, dated Feb. 6, points to Hendler's care of three patients dating to 1994. One woman, identified only as "Patient B," alleged that soon after she started treatments, the doctor "began to act in a flirtatious manner with her and initiated suggestive or graphic sexual conversations with her."
In 2002, Hendler pressured the woman for sexual favors, according to the complaint. Hendler allegedly said her health insurance was "insufficient to compensate him for his services." The woman said that she performed oral sex in exchange for receiving pain injections and medications.
In September 2004, Hendler dumped a handful of narcotic pills from a drawer into the patient's hand, for which no prescription had been issued, according to the state complaint.
A woman identified as "Patient C," who was treated by Hendler about three times a week with nerve block injections for pain, also described improper sexual advances. After locking his office door, according to the state complaint, Hendler began kissing her and initiated sexual contact.
The medical board also pointed to a complaint against Hendler made by an unnamed North Carolina physician. The doctor alleged that a former patient told him Hendler had dispensed potent narcotic Dilaudid pills to patients "without counting them and on at least one occasion took Dilaudid from the stock bottle for himself.
The patient further alleged that she "had observed the respondent to be intoxicated on several occasions," according to the board's complaint.
Hendler was president-elect of the American Academy of Pain Management, an organization whose Web site proclaims being the largest pain organization in the United States with 6,000 members. However, last week, Hendler called academy Executive Director Kathryn Padgett and said he was resigning, Padgett said.
"He indicated to me he was no longer able to be president of our organization," Padgett said, adding that she thought it would be inappropriate to go into the reasons he gave for resigning.
"Dr. Hendler has always been respected in the field of pain management," she said.
The lights were on last night at the clinic on Greenspring Valley Road, but there was no answer to knocks on the door. Inside, screensavers flickered on several computers.
Four cars were parked on the property, included a van with the clinic's name and phone number on its doors. One car was covered by a tarp. A fourth, a Mercedes sedan with an expired registration, was parked on the lawn.
Sun reporters Frank D. Roylance and Julie Bell contributed to this article.