When Patricia Hester was given the news from Dr. Farid Fata that she had cancer in Feb. 2010, she instantly went into survival mode.
In a concerted effort to get the jump on her diagnosis, Hester – a relatively healthy emergency room technician at the time and now-fitness instructor – against her better judgment of pumping herself with chemotherapy, heeded the advice of Fata and began cancer treatments after looking into Fata’s credentials and performance records. However, there was one big problem, Hester didn’t actually have cancer.
“It's very surreal. It's an out-of-body experience,” Hester told Fox News of being told she had cancer. “If you're not feeling sick, you don't expect that type of news and so you feel like you're watching this whole interaction go on and you're an observer – you're not actually the person [receiving the news]."
Hester's story will be featured in the second season of "Dr. Death" from podcast network Wondery, which delves into the mistreatment and misdiagnosing of hundreds of patients who were under the care of Dr. Farid Fata in Michigan. In 2015, a judge sentenced the Detroit-area cancer doctor to 45 years in prison – out of a possible 175 years he was eligible to receive – for collecting millions from insurance companies while poisoning more than 500 patients through needless treatments that wrecked their health.
At the time of his sentencing, Fata offered no excuses before he was handed his punishment. He had pleaded guilty in 2014 to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks, and two counts of money laundering.
“The sheer volume of the cases was definitely eye-opening,” Wondery podcast producer and director Marshall Lewy said.
“For one thing, [Fata] was incredibly well respected. He was the most decorated doctor in the area when it came to cancer and oncology and hematology,” Lewy explained when asked how Fata was able to take advantage of so many patients and remain undetected for so long.
On the podcast, George Karadsheh, who was hired in Sept. 2011 as his office manager, described Fata’s office as “grand," complete with expensive art and a piano in its lobby.
Dr. Farid Fata was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2015<strong>. </strong>He had pleaded guilty in 2014 to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks, and two counts of money laundering.
Dr. Farid Fata was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2015<strong>. </strong>He had pleaded guilty in 2014 to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks, and two counts of money laundering. (My Fox Detroit)
He further explained that the bustle of the infusion room “was like a parking lot for chemo chairs,” adding, “it would be like in a barbershop. There was never a moment where that chair wasn't being used.”
Fata shaped a revolving door of some 50 to more than 70 patients who would visit for cancer treatments per day, according to the podcast. In addition, the program reported that Fata only saw them for minutes at a time before he recommended and billed treatments later deemed unnecessary to many of them who had waited hours in the office before seeing Fata.
“That was only one part of it. And I think the other part was he really built a system where he would have total control,” said Lewy. “So as the years went on, outside referrals he dealt with in-house, he set up his own pharmacy, he set up his own palliative care, the hospice that he would recommend was run by a relative. So it just was this sort of closed-loop where if anybody went to try to get a second opinion, they often ended up with someone who he referred them to.”
So when Fata broke the news to Hester that she had cancer that would likely turn terminal, Hester said she was in a deep state of denial.
“I had recovered from being ill with pneumonia and had chronic asthma. So it was unbelievable,” she lamented. “The first thought was 'No way.' I was in denial, of course. You have so many thoughts flying through your head at the same time and it's like, 'OK, if I'm sick,' before you move on to the next step, first of all, you just have to mull that over.”
Continued Hester: “It's like, 'OK, I'll do everything I can to live my best life, my best quality of life. I'll be as proactive as possible and I'll get on a waiting list for a stem cell.' You know, assuming that this is actually me and this is actually going on, if I'm going to walk out these steps, this is what I'm going to do. I need to beat this. I need to be the healthiest of healthy.”
Hester maintained that despite being in a state of denial and disbelief, “I just knew that I had to do all that I could to avoid a horrific death.”
“People say, 'Oh, I'm going to beat this,' but my thought wasn't to load me up with chemo and if there's a tumor, let's get radiation,' said Hester. “My thoughts were different than where a lot of people would go. Mine were more fight-or-flight. I kind of wanted to bolt, like this wasn't even possible.”
The fallout from Fata’s unnecessary treatments left Hester with severe damage to her teeth and her immune system.
Hester said in the years since she ended Fata's ill-prescribed cancer treatments, she later found out through meetings with another oncologist, who had read her chart, that the damage to her teeth was imminent and likely only happened as a direct result of the previous treatments she had undergone.
“I had two back teeth that I started having problems with, and I was at the dentist, and the dentist was like this tooth looks really weird and there was no problem with it before – and this other tooth is just really strange,” recalled Hester. “And I never have had a bunch of root canals or anything like that so I ended up going to an endodontist and he sent me to an oral surgeon, and then he did surgery and took them out, and he wrote a big paper on it on the fact that this is from overtreatment that was deemed unnecessary.
“I know that sounds small, but that was pretty traumatic,” she added.
To this day, Hester still has regular doctor visits to treat her immune system and every four weeks receives treatment at the University of Michigan to combat the effects
In addition to the iron, intravesical therapy (IVT) and myriad of medications Hester was administered by Dr. Fata, she recalled also receiving "huge quantities of things that I didn't need because they didn't co-exist with the labs and didn't add up and I shouldn't have been treated with these drugs."
"So, for three years I was treated unnecessarily to do harm, not to do no harm," Hester lamented of her ordeal with Fata.
Hester said in the office Fata “always got his way” and recalled him often petitioning her husband to convince her to accept his cancer treatments.
“As time went on, it was almost a ‘do-or-die’ attitude,” said Hester. “It was like, you’re going to die if you don’t do these treatments.”
She maintained that whenever she expressed her desire to end treatments, Fata would go as far as to bring up other patients who he claimed had just died from their own cancer.
“He always had a backdoor attitude,” said Hester. “I got caught up in this whole evil web.”