Patients confront doctor who falsely diagnosed them with cancer

The government says a man who took an oath to do no harm instead turned more than 500 of his patients into victims in a shocking case of medical fraud.

In a Detroit courtroom Tuesday, the doctor listened as some of these patients and their families told in court how he ruined their lives with unnecessary cancer treatments.

Courtroom sketches could not adequately capture the anguish of the victims Tuesday as one by one, they confronted the cancer doctor who prescribed aggressive chemotherapy for patients he knew were not ill, and for those who were, ordering treatments that were excessive while billing medicare $34 million.

In court, Dr. Farid Fata showed no emotion for a man who prosecutors said would bully and browbeat patients who dared to question his treatment.

Fata has already pleaded guilty to fraud and other charges. A memo from prosecutors demanding a life sentence said Fata would tell his patients they risked death without him. Telling one: "Your life or your money."

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Dr. Farid Fata, a Detroit-area cancer physician pleaded guilty to giving fraudulent medical treatments to more than 550 patients.

CBS News

From Laura Stedtefeld, whose father died in Fata's care: "You poisoned, tortured and murdered my dad."

From Maggie Dorsey: "Even though I am not dead, I am a shadow of my former self."

It went on for four hours in federal court in Detroit. And it involved only a handful of the 553 victims prosecutors identified. People who were physically, emotionally and financially devastated.

Expert witnesses took the stand to describe the overuse of chemotherapy. One drug. rituximab is typically given eight times for aggressive lymphoma. But Dr. Fata prescribed it to one patient 94 times.

Monica Flagg, who was falsely told by Fata she had multiple myeloma was too distraught to speak in court. Treatments Fata prescribed left her continually exhausted and in pain. She was asked what she thought of him.

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Monica Flagg
CBS News

"I'm very angry," she said. "I cannot believe any doctor would betray so many people and he did."

She said she saw him in court and was asked if she saw a man that was contrite. "I cried when I saw him walk in the door," she said. "He showed no emotion. He didn't care. I was very angry."

A good question is how he got away with this and the answer is Dr. Fata was a well-respected physician backed up by other well-respected physicians and a prominent local hospital. But it was a doctor who worked for him, who ultimately blew the whistle on his actions.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.