Friday July 10, 2015 marks a landmark in medical history. Dr. Farid Fata, one of Michigan’s most respected doctors, with over 16,000 patients spanning over 7 cities in the United States, pleaded guilty for 23 counts of health care fraud, 1 count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and 2 counts of money laundering. He was sentenced to 45 years of prison without the eligibility of parole. At 50 years of age, and living the most desired comforts the world can buy, Dr. Fata will spend his golden years in prison until he is 95.
So what did Dr. Fata actually do? Well, he defrauded Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield $35M, due to falsely diagnosing at least 553 patients with cancer over a 6-year period. Dr. Fata lied to his patients and told those without cancer they needed various chemotherapy procedures. He convinced cancer survivors in remission to continue chemo to ensure the cancer stayed away, and lastly, he would require terminal patients to stay under his care in order to continue to receive money.
What is interesting about this story is the lack of accountability and transparency in the medical community. As Dr. Fata rose to the highest ranks in cancer treatment to become the leading cancer specialist, no one is recorded to have raised any concerns. As an oncologist, he did not act alone in cancer treatment; he must use other specialists and medical personnel to assist in the care of cancer patients, and drawing up paperwork.
At first glance, this horrific event appears to only have happened by chance; the completion of his residency at the prestigious Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the number patients miss-diagnosed with cancer, and the number of other medical personnel who did not report any suspicious activity. However, if we step away from the details and look at the bigger picture, logic tells us nothing happens by chance. Everything is at equilibrium, and if people govern their own lives, then they are fully accountable for their life’s outcome. There is no question Dr. Fata’s malpractice reflects low processing capability, but I question if his patients reflect his capability by not double-checking his paperwork and asking for a second opinion.