DETROIT oncologist Farid Fata was sentenced to 45 years’ jail this month, in what has been described as America’s worst case of medical fraud.
Fata gave massive doses of unnecessary chemotherapy to hundreds of patients, causing permanent injury to many, The BMJ
Some of those patients did not even have cancer, but the doctor convinced them otherwise.
“I have one tooth left”, one patient told the court, describing the side effects of his unnecessary chemotherapy. “I had to have pieces of my gums and teeth cut out. Every time I think of his name I get a headache. I get sick to my stomach. I can’t sleep.”
The court heard from the widow of another patient who died in December after Fata ignored his renal cancer and treated him instead for non-existent lung cancer because it was more remunerative.
In the US, oncologists, unlike other specialists, can take a profit margin on the drugs they prescribe.
Somehow, Fata managed to operate Michigan’s largest private cancer clinic, billing patients and insurance companies a total of US$34.7 million ($A47 million) over 5 years, at least half of which he has now admitted was for unnecessary treatment.
The whistle was eventually blown by his office manager, who became suspicious because staff kept leaving the practice. One departing oncologist said he was going because Fata was giving chemotherapy to healthy patients.
The worst of the US medical profession have certainly been on display in recent weeks.
Maryland anaesthetist Tiffany Ingham
lost a defamation and malpractice case in June after her insulting comments about a patient during a colonoscopy were accidentally recorded on his mobile phone.
She had joked to colleagues during the procedure that the man might have syphilis and “tuberculosis of the penis”, and falsely recorded that he had hemorrhoids on his chart.
“After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit”, she was recorded saying to her unconscious patient.
When health professionals behave this badly, it does more than create sensational headlines. It undermines trust in medical treatment and the people who deliver it.
Many have asked why Ingham’s colleagues in the operating theatre tolerated, and, even apparently participated in, her contemptuous behaviour towards the patient.
And why did Fata’s coworkers simply leave the practice, without exposing his cruel and fraudulent behaviour?
The Fata case has been a boon for those spruiking “natural” cancer treatments.
“It happens more often than you can imagine, but more Doctors are finally getting caught in the act of misrepresenting their oath and fraudulently diagnosing healthy patients with cancer to turn a quick buck from kickbacks on chemotherapy poisons”, says one article
that has been widely shared online.
The headline also claims more doctors are confessing to intentionally diagnosing healthy people with cancer to make money, though Fata’s is the only case cited.
“Why shouldn’t Doctors lie when the entire cancer industry is one gigantic fabrication from start to finish?” the article goes on to ask.
In a cruel twist, Fata could end up being responsible not just for the harm done to the patients in his care, but to others who are convinced to turn away from treatments that might help them.
Jane McCredie is a Sydney-based science and medicine writer.