'Dr Death' to Remain in Prison; $4 Million Paid to Patients

Gave Chemo to People Without Cancer

Nick Mulcahy

July 21, 2020

Disgraced oncologist Farid Fata, MD, called "Dr Death" by his patient victims, will remain in federal prison, having recently been denied a plea to have his 45-year sentence reduced and be released for medical reasons, including his reported worry that "contracting COVID-19 [in prison] could very well prove to be fatal."

Fata is imprisoned in South Carolina and in the fifth year of his sentence, having been found guilty of healthcare fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and other charges.

Fata gave chemotherapy and other treatments to hundreds of patients who did not have cancer or did not need the care, as reported by Medscape Medical News. The unnecessary and excessive care led to disability and disfigurement in some cases, according to patient testimony.

Now, many of his victims have recently received financial compensation, totaling over $4 million, according to an Associated Press story.

More than 600 people were awarded restitution related to claims for out-of-pocket expenses (eg, copayments and insurance deductibles), as well as funeral expenses, according to the US Attorney's Office.

In the meantime, Fata has been worrying about his own survival while in prison, according to a July 10 US District Court filing, which says he "contends" that COVID-19 could be deadly — if he contracted it — because of his age and medical conditions.

Fata, 55, says he has a variety of illnesses: type 2 diabetes with diabetic neuropathy and vision complications, immune deficiency with low white blood cell counts and low neutrophil counts, gastrointestinal bleeding, esophageal reflux, gastritis, and mild cognitive impairment/early dementia.

In late 2019, Fata sought compassionate release based on his illnesses. The warden of the South Carolina corrections facility where Fata is imprisoned denied the request.

Then, in May, Fata again sought sentence reduction, and again cited his diseases and age and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the recent court filing, US District Judge Paul Borman reviewed — and rejected — Fata's multiple release requests, noting that only one inmate and two staff members at the South Carolina prison had tested positive for COVID-19 as of July 8.

Borman also wrote that neither Fata's age nor his medical conditions met federal standards of being "extraordinary and compelling" for compassionate release.

For example, Borman noted that Fata's diabetes was "well documented," but that it was also "generally 'well-controlled' " with diet and medication and does not require insulin. Likewise, his "gastrointestinal bleeding" was more likely the result of anal fissure, which Fata is documented to have, the court judgement reads.

Finally, Borman concluded that Fata's "horrific offenses" would be "unjustifiably mitigated" by any reduction in sentence.

"This Guy Doesn't Represent Oncologists"

Fata's criminal scheme encompassed his oncology practice at multiple locations in suburban Detroit; a pharmacy, a diagnostic testing center, and a radiation treatment center, all of which he owned; and a sham charity he founded.

Fata pleaded guilty to multiple charges in 2014 and was sentenced in 2015. At a related court hearing, patients testified about the aftermath of Fata's abuse. Former patient Maggie Dorsey said that Fata deliberately misdiagnosed her with multiple myeloma and treated her with bortezomib. She tearfully described living with the adverse effects, which include severe osteoporosis and neuropathy.

"I have days where I cannot stand," Dorsey was quoted in a Detroit Free Press story in 2015. "Most nights, the pain is too great to allow me to sleep."

After reading about his crimes and sentence, some Medscape readers wondered if patient-physician trust had been deeply damaged by Fata.

"These events make people lose confidence in their doctors, and if we lose the trust of our patients, we lose everything," said oncologist Julián García Espinosa in the comments section of one story.

But others dismissed that worry. "This guy doesn't represent oncologists," remarked an internist. "He is not even an outlier."

Nick Mulcahy is an award-winning senior journalist for Medscape. He previously freelanced for HealthDay and MedPageToday, and had bylines in WashingtonPost.com, MSNBC, and Yahoo. Email: nmulcahy@medscape.net and on Twitter: @MulcahyNick

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