Few things ravage the body like chemotherapy. In the all-out war waged against a cancer that is doing everything it can to kill a patient, chemotherapy is a double-edged sword: destroying both sick and healthy cells alike in the hope that it kills the cancerous cells before the healthy cells are destroyed. Chemotherapy can bring some of the worst pain or nausea a patient will have ever suffered. It leaves many wondering if the medicine is worse than the disease.
Doctors do not take putting patients on chemotherapy lightly. It is a serious decision and has profound, lifelong consequences that can go well beyond the duration of treatment. Patients will suffer as a result of taking it as a course of action – it is a matter of hoping that the patient’s body is stronger than the medicine being used to save it.
All of these things we know about chemotherapy makes the case of Detroit, Michigan oncologist Dr. Farid Fata even more despicable. Over the course of several years, Fata over-treated hundreds of patients with harmful levels of chemotherapy. He didn’t do it because of an improper diagnosis. He didn’t do it because he thought he was doing the right thing and just happened to be wrong. He didn’t do it because of a study or for academic reasons – in fact, some of his victims didn’t even have cancer.
Fata systematically poisoned patients and put them through horrendous pain simply to put millions of dollars into his bank account.
Patients would beg for the treatments to stop. They were routinely given chemotherapy treatments that were double and, in some cases, more than triple the recommended doses.
In fact, Fata would continue this abuse of over 500 patients for years, reaping over $17 million of fraudulently obtained Medicare and private insurance company funds in the process.
Fata was eventually brought to trial for his misdeeds. In September of 2014 he pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. During his trial, federal prosecutors would refer to Fata as “the most egregious fraudster in the history of this country,” reducing his patients to “profit centers.”
Fata reportedly displayed little emotion or remorse throughout the duration of his trial and, at one point, smirked at the family of one of his victims. It wasn’t until sentencing and the realization that, at age 50, he was likely going to spend the rest of his life behind bars, that he attempted an apology.
For patients’ families it was, obviously, far too little offered far too late.
Prosecutors asked for a 175-year sentence. Fata’s attorneys argued for a reduction to 25 years. In the end, a sentence of 45 years was handed down with Fata becoming eligible for release in 34 years.
Assuming he lives that long, he’ll be 84 years old before he possibly sees the outside of a prison.