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According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern
District of Michigan, a Detroit doctor has been falsely diagnosing patients
with cancer, just so he can give them chemotherapy and make money from
doing that.

I am a whistleblower lawyer, and I had so much to do today that I had decided
I would skip blogging today. But then I read about this case, and was
so shocked and infuriated that I just had to write.

The accusation is so bizarre that I’ll say it again. The Complaint
says that Dr. Fata of Michigan diagnosed patients with cancer, even though
they did not have cancer, because he decided he would like to make more
money. Apparently he couldn’t drum up enough cancer patients who
needed chemotherapy, so he invented a few.

The Complaint is filed as a healthcare fraud indictment. The doctor is
accused of defrauding Medicare because he billed for chemotherapy, PET
scans and other cancer treatments for patients who did not have cancer.
The Complaint talks about how much money the U.S. has lost to the fraud.
I represent whistleblowers who file False Claims Act lawsuits, so I am
curious as to whether a whistleblower told the Government about the fraud.
I could not tell from the Complaint, but the Complaint did give the dates
on which Dr. Fata’s employees were interviewed, and I noted that
one of Dr. Fata’s employees was interviewed three days before the
others. The Complaint gave less information about this employee than it
did about the others.

The doctor also is accused of giving people more chemotherapy and more
drugs than they needed – a lot more. For example, an oncologist
who had worked with the doctor said that over a two-year period, Dr. Fata
ordered 56 doses of Rituximab for a non-Hodgins lymphoma patient –
even though the correct dosage would have been 12. The doctor also treated
patients who had Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). These patients
were to be given Rituximab for 5-6 weeks before they had surgery to remove
their spleens. Allegedly the drug was so profitable for Dr. Fata that
he kept patients on it for years and never mentioned the surgery option.

For two patients, Dr. Fata allegedly ordered a “maintenance dose”
of chemotherapy – even though the patients were in remission. Fortunately,
the Complaint says these two patients sought second opinions.

The doctor also is accused of hiring three foreign doctors and letting
them treat patients even though the foreign doctors were not licensed
in the U.S.

Yes, Dr. Fata’s actions would have defrauded Medicare and Medicaid.
But can you imagine the agony that these patients and their families went
through? The Complaint notes that the doctor generally did not tell patients
they had been diagnosed with cancer, but he did falsify their records.
It seems very likely that some of these patients “learned”
that they had cancer when they talked to their insurance carriers or their
other doctors.

And then the Government says that the doctor intentionally gave chemotherapy
to the patients knowing they did not need it! These patients became desperately
ill from chemotherapy – for nothing! I can imagine that a dad was
so sick he couldn’t travel to see his son’s graduation from
college. A mom couldn’t snuggle her child to sleep at night because
she was in the bathroom throwing up. Somebody lost a job because he or
she didn’t have the strength to go to work.

As a lawyer, I’ve generally got a lot to say, but words fail me here.

Yes, Dr. Fata made a large profit. According to the Complaint, his company
billed Medicare $35 million in just two years, and $25 million of that
was for Dr. Fata’s services. But how can you even plumb the depths
of the misery that this man must have caused, allegedly just to make more money?


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.