By Allan Lengel
DETROIT — It’s not always fair to compare someone to an evil figure in history. But when I saw the Metro Detroit oncologist Dr. Farid Fata sitting in federal court in Detroit Monday, I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi SS officer and evil physician at Auschwitz during World War II, who conducted genetic experiments with no regard for human life.
Perhaps Mengele, who died in 1979, did it for science. Or out of hatred for the Jews. Or out of loyalty for the Nazi party.
Dr. Fata did it for money.
Dr. Fata, who will be sentenced this week, is accused of administering unnecessary treatments, including chemo for terminally ill patients, and for some who didn’t even have cancer. Some people are suffering the ill effects of the unnecessary treatments. Some possibly died sooner than they should have as a result of his treatments. In one instance, prosecutors have alleged that Dr. Fata gave 155 chemo treatments to a patient who was cancer free.
He has pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare of millions of dollars for unnecessary treatments to more than 500 patients.
Dr. Fata got rich being Dr. Evil. He didn’t do it for some ideological reason.
And he, like Dr. Mengele, carried out the medical acts with no regard for human life.
This week, starting on Tuesday, in a seventh floor courtroom occupied by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, about two dozen people — family members of victims of Dr. Fata — will give brief statements about the horrors they experienced, having trusted Dr. Fata. At the end of all that, the judge will sentence Fata, likely on Thursday. The prosecution is asking for 175 years. Fata’s attorneys are asking for no more than 25 years.
It’s hard to imagine he’ll get anything short of a life sentence. The cruelty involved is beyond comprehension.
On Monday, as part of the sentencing hearing, the government called to the witness stand Dr. Dan Longo, a Harvard Medical School professor, who testified about the unnecessary and puzzling treatments Dr. Fata meted out to various patients.
Longo concluded that treatment in cases he was asked about were beyond aggressive and over the top.
Dr. Fata, clad in a black suit and an open collared, white shirt, sat stoically, next to his two attorneys and two medical experts. He often just stared at the witness, expressionless, and occasionally jotted down something on paper and passed it on to someone at the table. Some of the victims’ family members sat in the gallery, having come traveled aboard a charter bus parked across from the courthouse on Lafayette Blvd.
Dr. Longo testified that the unnecessary treatments exposed patients to severe side effects, including lowering immunity systems.
He testified that patients received a “stunning” number of injections of a drug called Rituximab, which is used to treat aggressive lymphoma. One patient got 112 doses when the max is 24.
The prosecutor, John Neal, brought up a Fox 2 report about a patient who was operated on for pancreatic cancer. After the surgery, he went to Dr. Fata, who followed up with five years of chemo. Dr. Longo said six months of chemo was more appropriate under the circumstances. The patient told the station that he has suffered from a series of ailments from the chemo.
Dr. Fata is a scary reminder why we need second opinions when confronted by serious medical issues, and that the bad doctor must pay dearly for the Dr. Mengele that lurks inside of him.