As we’ve noted before on this blog, federal authorities are keen to investigate and prosecute health care fraud because of the significant amount of public dollars routinely lost to fraud schemes. An equally important reason for the investigative and prosecutorial zeal against health care fraudsters is that doctors who engage in these schemes can end up putting patients at risk.
A recent case where this occurred was that of Farid Fata, a Michigan doctor in hematology and oncology who was sentenced to 45 years in prison in connection with fraud and related charges stemming from claims that he defrauded Medicare of a total of $34 million. Government documents detail over 550 cases where the doctor violated patients’ trust. Many of the patients Fata treated were told they had cancer when they did not, and were put through unnecessary treatment. In other cases, patients who were terminally ill with cancer were given unnecessary treatments.
Because of the shocking nature of the doctor’s misdeeds, U.S. Attorney General Barbara McQuade commented that the case was “the most egregious” she had seen. While the case of Fata is shocking and underscores the need for federal authorities to be aggressive in targeting doctors who engage in fraud, it is also true that doctors who are accused of health care fraud deserve a solid defense, regardless of the circumstances of their case.
From a criminal defense perspective, the aim in providing a solid defense is to ensure that the defendant’s legal rights are protected and that prosecutors are held to their full burden of proof. In any health care fraud case, the evidence against a defendant needs to be thoroughly scrutinized and any weaknesses in prosecutors’ case need to be highlighted so that the legal process plays out correctly. Without the counterbalance offered by a strong defense, prosecutors become too powerful and justice is less likely to be served.
So, regardless of the nature of the case, every defendant has the right to a full criminal defense. This is important not only for all of us to remember.
USA Today, “Cancer doctor sentenced to 45 years for ‘horrific’ fraud,” Robert Allen, July 11, 2015.
USA Today, “Witness: Cancer doctor’s treatment ‘over the top’,” Katrease Stafford, July 6, 2015.