Did Dr. Fata Kill My Mother?

What I’ve Learned from Jailed Oncologist Farid Fata

By Cindy Kitchel, Special to Rochester Media

I have read and reread an email my mom sent me on September 22, 2010. At that time escalating stomach pain had prompted her primary care physician to order a scan and biopsies that uncovered a cancerous mass in her stomach; she wrote me after then being referred to a well-regarded oncologist, Farid Fata. Her impressions of the doctor and appointment:

I liked the doctor. He is Lebanese and quite soft-spoken. He is moving along quite fast. PET scan on Monday and an appointment with him on Thursday to go over the staging. He feels it is gastro-intestinal, but will know definitely after the PET scan.

They are making an appointment to put in a port. Dr. Fata wants that done as soon as possible so I’m sure they will begin chemo soon.

Becky [my sister, who along with my dad accompanied her to the appointment] wondered if I would want a second opinion, but I cannot see the point of it. He will proceed on the results of the PET scan; his field is gastro-intestinal and gastro-urinary; he is moving quickly and appears to be very compassionate.

For those who have followed the unraveling of Farid Fata’s practice, the email is chilling.

Eleanore Morrow before seeing Dr. Fata - photo by Shelton Imaging

Eleanore Morrow before seeing Dr. Fata – photo by Shelton Imaging

Following the PET scan, Fata didn’t diagnose Mom with gastro-intestinal cancer. He instead diagnosed her with Stage IV colon cancer that had metastasized to her liver. The diagnosis was puzzling because Mom had undergone both a colonoscopy and a liver biopsy in the three months prior to meeting Fata, and both tests showed those areas to be cancer-free. Still, we wrung our hands about the margin of error on tests and believed his assessment. He immediately began my 75-year-old mother on an aggressive chemotherapy regimen that increased over the coming months.

Seven months after Mom met Fata, she collapsed and died suddenly at home while preparing for an infused hydration treatment at Fata’s office. By this point the chemo regimen of three days every two weeks had increased to three days of chemo every week followed by two days of infused hydration. Mom was in a chemo chair at Fata’s office five days per week, every week. After months of his increasingly aggressive treatment, the symptoms of the cancer and the ill effects of the chemo were indistinguishable.

About two years after Mom’s death, FBI agents raided Fata’s office and arrested him for Medicare fraud, a scheme that involved, as with my mom, excessive and often unnecessary or inaccurate treatments that paid him well and left patients crippled, harmed for life, or dead. This was in August 2013. In October 2014, Fata plead guilty to 16 of 23 counts against him, including Medicare fraud, conspiracy to receive kickbacks, and money laundering. The scope of his fraud is staggering. According to the sentencing document from the federal government, for example, the average oncologist purchases about $1.5 million of chemotherapy per year; Fata was purchasing $45 million for a staff of three doctors. This stunning amount of medication was administered into the chemo ports of victims like my mom.

Mom after Fata

Mom After Treatment with Fata

I read this first email from Mom and wonder why I didn’t question more. Why didn’t I ask why he was aggressive about having a chemo port implanted when the diagnosis – which would determine treatment options — hadn’t yet been determined? Why hadn’t I pushed harder to learn whether chemo was the only route? Why wasn’t the option of not treating brought up? Why didn’t I press harder when the diagnosis flew in the face of results from medical tests before Fata? Why didn’t I push for a second opinion? Later, as Mom’s comfort and health continued to deteriorate under Fata’s treatment, why didn’t we stop or at least question the increasingly aggressive treatments? Why didn’t we insist on seeing her test results, which would have clued us into some inconsistencies between what was happening in her body and what Fata was conveying?

In reality, when a tragedy like cancer strikes, you want to cede control to someone else – perhaps someone soft-spoken who seems compassionate and capable and on your side. It’s difficult enough to receive a shocking diagnosis; at that time, learning new medical terminology, being an active patient, and asking probing questions can seem a bridge too far. Mom wanted to trust Fata. I wanted to trust Fata. And yet, delving deeper could have changed the outcome of my mom’s life; we’ll never know. If she had received an appropriate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, she may still be here, laughing her infectious laugh and telling funny family stories over a cup of coffee. If in fact she had an advanced cancer that wasn’t treatable, we could have spent her last months, celebrating her life, and keeping her comfortable and happy rather than assaulting her with a purported cure that didn’t exist.

My hope is that no one will again go through what Fata’s victims and families of victims experienced. The only way to change that course, however, is for patients and families to become true advocates for their own diagnosis and treatment. To insist on second opinions and to review test results personally, a task now much easier with online Portals that provide better transparency. To always ask questions and be suspicious of flip answers. To refuse to give up control of your own health.

My hope is that we as a community never allow this to happen again.

Rochester Media Exclusive Report, By Cindy Kitchel

For more about the fate of Dr. Fata please read this Oakland Press Article

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Rochester Media publishes The Community Edge digital newsletter of recently posted articles from Rochester Media, a hyper-local news outlet covering all things in and around Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township. Send us you press releases and news happenings to editor@rochestermedia.com.


  1. You just told my story

    • Lorraine McGoldrick says

      My father-in-law was one of his patients similar to your story. If the first whistle Blower was heard it would have saved hundreds from the hurt we all have now!

      • I know, Lorraine. I think about this constantly. Angela wrote her letter to the regulatory board several months before my mom ever met Fata. Mom died one week before Angela got an “all checks out fine; case is closed” form letter from the state. If her complaint had actually been investigated, many lives could have been saved. Thank goodness the federal government took this seriously, or Fata might still be practicing instead of behind bars. I’m so sorry about your father-in-law.

  2. Alicia: Were you one of Fata’s patients? I’m so very sorry. The more I learn about what he did, the more infuriating and heartbreaking it is.

  3. Jacqueline Colburn says

    He was my father’s doctor He gave my 87 yr old father chemo He almost died from the one treatment and thank God his primary care doctorr said no more! My father only lived 10 months under Fata’s care I didn’t find out about all this till 2 yrs ago. I was shocked and angry

    • Jacqueline: I just saw your comments. I’m so very sorry that your father went through this treatment. His story is too familiar with Fata — very aggressive treatment on older patients who, under the best circumstances, would be as hurt by the poison as by the cancer. I’m thankful your dad’s primary care physician stopped this. I still don’t understand how he got away with it for so long.

  4. I have never felt so much HATE for 1 person.

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