In one of the most shocking cases of medical malpractice in recent history, a Detroit-area oncologist is currently being sentenced for allegedly misdiagnosing over 500 patients with cancer so that he could reap tens of millions of dollars in Medicare funds.
The sentencing of Dr. Farid Fata, which began on Monday, claims that the doctor purposely misdiagnosed 553 patients with cancer as far back as 2010 so they would agree to pay for expensive and unnecessary cancer treatments that destroyed their bodies while Fata lined his pockets. Within only two years, Fata’s private practice, Michigan Hematology Oncology, raked in $35 million in Medicare billing, $25 million of which was directly attributed to Fata.
Fata, who in 2012 was the highest-paid oncologist and seventh-highest individual health provider in the U.S., was initially arrested and indicted for Medicare fraud in 2013 for submitting “claims for services that were medically unnecessary,” which included intentionally administering chemotherapy to “patients in remission.” Fata plead guilty to 16 counts of fraud, but the sentencing for the lives he destroyed has only just begun.
Now, 150 alleged patients have filed statements with the court. As part of the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman is allowing two dozen of Fata’s alleged victims to testify for up to 10 minutes each — Fata’s attorneys initially argued to keep some of those victims from testifying because they didn’t meet the legal definition of a victim. Unsurprisingly, Fata is also challenging the court’s figure of 553 patient victims.
On Monday, Dr. Dan Longo, a Harvard medical professor and deputy editor for the New England Journal of Medicine, testified on behalf of the government. Dr. Longo found that of the 25 files he reviewed, many included unnecessary treatments that could have resulted in life-threatening complications and painful side effects.
Fata’s patients endured a “stunning number of injections” for one cancer-fighting medication, Dr. Longo said. One patient in particular received five years of painful chemotherapy when he should have only received six months of the treatment, according to prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors said, “Fata singlehandedly designed the fraud, which necessitated fooling his own employees and professional staff,” and called him the nation’s “most egregious fraudster” who “wreaked damage on not only his victims’ bank accounts, but their bodies.”
Prosecutors are now seeking the maximum penalty of 175 years in prison; Fata’s attorneys are calling for a sentence of only 25 years.