Everyone knows someone who has experienced the terrible disease that is cancer. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s one wherein we must live. What can make cancer so much worse is the aggressive, life-altering treatments that often follow, like radiation and chemotherapy.
While some cancer treatments are becoming more advanced, less aggressive, and not as invasive, we put an immense amount of faith in doctors to guide us in the right direction. So, what happens when individuals considered top, world-renowned doctors break that trust and weaken that faith?
That is exactly what happens to hundreds of patients when one doctor’s lies came unhinged and uncovered for the world to see in 2013.
Dr. Farid Fata: When a Trusted Authority in Cancer Treatment Lies
An oncologist in Michigan by the name of Dr. Farid Fata operated numerous upscale clinics in Detroit-area suburbs. In 2013, however, he was accused of and arrested for giving cancer treatment drugs to patients who did not need them, some of whom did not even have cancer.
“Dr. Fata did not care for patients; he exploited them as commodities,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a news release. “He over-treated, under-treated and outright lied to patients about whether they had cancer so that he could maximize his own profits.”
Noting that chemotherapy is toxic to both cancerous and healthy tissue, McQuade said Fata “gave poison to these people not to keep them alive but to make money.”
In September 2015, Fata pleaded guilty to 13 healthcare and financial fraud charges and ordered to forfeit $17,600,000 by the U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman. Fata admitted to prescribing and administering unnecessary aggressive cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and infusion therapies to 553 patients so he could increase billings, which totaled about $34,000,000 to Medicare and private insurance companies.
“I have violated the Hippocratic oath and violated the trust of my patients,” Fata said, according to CNN affiliate WDIV. “I do not know how I can heal the wound. I do not know how to express the sorrow and the shame.”
“They came to me seeking compassion and care. I failed them,” said Fata in a tear-choked voice. “My sins are many.”
But Fata’s tears were nowhere near the deep sense of loss that weighed heavy in the courtroom, and continues to weigh heavy today.
“Patients were not people. They were profit centers,” federal prosecutors told Fata, describing him as the “most egregious fraudster in the history of this country.”
Many of Fata’s victims wore bright yellow clothes to his sentencing, symbolizing the last day he would see sunlight. After an hour of deliberation, the judge came back with Fata’s sentence…
45 YEARS BEHIND BARS.
“This is the most egregious case of fraud and deception that I have seen in my career,” said Chief Weber. “Dr. Fata not only defrauded the government out of millions of dollars, but he lied to his patients about their health and intentionally put their lives at risk. In fact, because of his lies, some of those patients who he was entrusted to care for likely died as a result of his actions. This defendant greedily cared more about his own financial well-being than the lives of his patients. This disgusting and diabolical scheme has hurt hundreds of patients and their families and stolen from them something that no punishment from the court can do to make them whole.”
Words from Fata’s Patients
Chris Sneary went to Fata for testicular cancer treatment from 2010 to 2013.
“I gave full and total trust to this man to get me and my family through this journey I was about to begin. Dr. Fata took full advantage of my trust in him, my fear of dying and, most of all, my top of the line health insurance.”
One patient, Donald Crabtree, who did have cancer even spoke out in court posthumously. Crabtree’s wife, Marietta, read a statement aloud in court:
“None of the tumors were helped – they increased in number, they increased in size… I believe Dr. Fata knowingly and purposely treated me for the wrong cancer and gave me the wrong chemotherapy.”
There have been talks of Fata’s previous patients having a chance to file claims and possibly receive a fraction of the funds he collected from both Medicare and the private insurance companies. But, since February 2015, Fata has been serving his sentence at a prison in Michigan.