Cancer doctor's fraud investigation widens; More doctors being sued

DETROIT – The investigation into a Detroit-area cancer specialist who pleaded guilty to federal charges and admits he gave patients unneeded treatments is expanding to include other doctors.

Dr. Farid Fata pleaded guilty Tuesday to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy and two counts of money laundering. He owned Michigan Hematology Oncology, which had many offices in suburban Detroit, and said he ordered treatments for patients knowing they were unnecessary and then submitted insurance claims for them.

Several of his former patients and their family members met in downtown Detroit Wednesday at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"I miss calling her and talking to her. You can't imagine the times I want to call her on the telephone. It's almost every day," said Sydney Zaremba, whose mother died after being under Fata's care for three months.

Zaremba isn't just upset with Fata. She said there were other people in his offices who also had their hands on her mother's care. 

"I think everyone who was involved that knew what was going on needs to be punished," she said.'

Eight others physicians have been named as part of the investigation as those who knew Fata was bilking the system.

"One of the counts he plead to was conspiracy, and one person cannot be convicted of conspiracy. There has to be co-conspirators," said attorney Donna MacKenzie. "Who are those co-conspirators?"

MacKenzie has a growing list of cases she's filed in Oakland County Circuit Court naming three hospitals: Crittenton, Karmanos and McLaren. The lawsuits are for medical malpractice resulting in death or other significant injuries.

"What we would like to get to the bottom of is who else knew what was going on, what did they know, when did they know it, and what did they do about it?" MacKenzie said.

All of the doctors named in the lawsuits are still practicing medicine.

"The investigation is still ongoing. Should we uncover any wrongdoing by others, and we have sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, we will seek charges," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement to Local 4.

Local 4 asked all of the hospitals for statements.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Cancer doctor's fraud case

Statement from McLaren Health Care

Tragic situations like this represent an abuse of the trust that patients place in their relationship with their physician.  Dr. Fata was a private practice physician who has acknowledged that he made recommendations to his patients that were improper and did not reflect any recognized standard of care practiced within the medical community.   

Our challenge as members of the medical community is to develop processes and systems that support meaningful patient engagement.  Empowering patients to work closely with their providers is key to achieving better outcomes.  That means helping patients understand what they can do to insure that they are receiving the best and most appropriate care possible for their individual situation.  First, always ask questions.  High quality physicians expect this and it can mean better care and better outcomes.  Examples of questions to ask include:

  • What is the test for?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • When will I get the results?
  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Which hospital is best for my needs?
  • How do you spell the name of that drug?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Will this medicine interact with medicines that I'm already taking?

And never hesitate to get another opinion if you are not sure about what to do.  Patients have options and they should always feel empowered to explore those options in selecting the best provider for their specific needs. 

Regarding Pending Litigation

Dr. Fata treated a large number of patients.  Most were appropriately referred to other health care professionals including those who provided laboratory services and radiation therapy.  Despite having no direct connection to Dr. Fata, these providers have been swept into the litigation that has been filed on behalf of patients and their families affected by the care mismanagement of Dr. Fata.  Like other reputable health providers, McLaren will continue to participate in the legal process attached to these cases until they are resolved.

--Kevin Tompkins, vice president of marketing for McLaren