Dr. Farid Fata (Photo: Zuma Press)
A mouthful of missing teeth. Chronic pain all over the body. Unrelenting weakness in joints and muscles. Even death. Those were some of the claims that Dr. Farid Fata’s victims heaped upon him at his sentencing trial this week for administering at least 2,000 unnecessary chemotherapy treatments.
Fata admitted to misdiagnosing and exposing his cancer patients to unneeded and excessive rounds of chemotherapy to collect payments from both them and their insurance companies. He was sentenced on Friday to 45 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman — which will most likely cover the rest of the 50-year-old’s natural life.
The sentence was greater than the 25 years that the defense advocated for, but well under the 175-year maximum requested by the prosecution. In total, his scam affected roughly 550 victims and racked up $34.7 million in payments. Fata’s restitution hearing is still coming; he has already agreed to turn over $17.6 million.
Prior to the announcement, Fata’s attorney argued that a sentence over 25 years would result in death, due to his client’s diabetes and hypertension, and asked that he “see light of day before he goes.” According to court reporters, Fata stood next to his lawyer and appeared to be crying.
In total, his scam affected roughly 550 victims and racked up $34.7 million in payments.
“I do not know how I can heal the wound. I do not know how to express the sorrow and the shame,” Fata said to victims and families as he addressed the court prior to his sentencing. “The quest for power is self-destructive. They came to me seeking compassion and care. I failed. Yes, I failed,” he said, according to Detroit’s Channel 4.
Back in September, Fata pleaded guilty to “13 counts of health care fraud, two counts of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks,” according to the Detroit Free Press. Some of the patients never even showed evidence of having had cancer, something whistleblower Dr. Soe Maunglay began noticing in records soon after he was hired at Fata’s practice, in 2012.
Fata’s former patients, and the loved ones of those who had passed, had a chance to speak in court this week.
“Farid Fata, I hate you,” said Laura Stedtfeld, whose father passed away while under Fata’s medical care, according to US News & World Report. “You are repulsive. You disgust me. You are a monster. … You poisoned, tortured, and murdered my dad.”
According to former patient Christopher Sobieray, doctors he consulted after Fata’s scheme was exposed were “appalled” by his massive overtreatment for testicular cancer. “Look at what’s left of my mouth — I have one tooth left,” he said. “They had no idea how I was sitting in their office. … I will never be the same.”
(Photo: AP Images)
Teddy Howard was another former patient of Fata’s. He does not have cancer and now must take additional medicine for the rest of his life as a result of the phony treatments. “What really makes me angry is the fact that he lied,” Howard told CBS News. “He knew he was lying, he gave the drugs to me anyway, and I had no knowledge of it, and now my life is turned upside down. I can’t do anything about it. I don’t know how long I’m going to live.”
The damage Fata amassed with his fraudulent cancer treatments is simply tragic. “I think he’s guilty of the most cruel thing that a human being can do to another human being,” former colleague Maunglay said.
What’s the toll of excessive cancer treatments on the body?
For context, there are many variations involved in chemotherapy, according to William Oh, chief in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York.
“Chemotherapy isn’t just one drug, but rather a group of drugs used in cancer patients,” Oh tells Yahoo Health. “They work by exploiting the difference between regular cells and cancer cells, which grow at a much more rapid pace.”
This is why a hallmark side effect of chemotherapy drugs is hair loss, says Oh, among other side effects like low blood-cell counts or loss of cells in the mouth and reproductive system. Normal cells that also reproduce quickly get caught in the crossfire of the powerful drugs.
Oh says it’s tough to know how overtreating a patient with chemotherapy — or giving a cancer-free person these powerful drugs — will affect the person, since chemo responses are so individual. But the drugs are extremely strong and need to be dosed with the utmost caution by a trained doctor.
“Chemo can be lifesaving when used in the right setting by people with advanced cancers,” says Oh. “But it’s definitely a case of using the right drug on the right patient at the right time — and you should absolutely not use chemotherapy if misdiagnosed, or in this case, something a little different.”
Oh says if you or a loved one has cancer, it’s important to do your own research and get a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment. “Talk to several people about the drugs you’re getting, and why you’re getting them,” he says. “There’s a lot of good information online now about chemotherapy treatment, too. And if you’re ever unsure if your diagnosis is correct, it can never hurt to get a second opinion.”
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