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As a cancer advocate, I know that cancer patients
do not just have one doctor or specialist...they
have an entire healthcare team that is sometimes
spread out over multiple facilities. No matter what
doctor or specialist the patient is seeing, there is
one common thread in the care continuum...THE
PATIENT and usually his/her caregiver. As a result
of more complicated diseases and treatments,
patients and caregivers are now a key part of the
patient safety solution. With a little knowledge of
the basics and some skills you probably learned
by watching Sherlock Holmes, you can have a
significant impact in patient care.
One of the worst cases of malpractice and
death by assumptions was the conviction of Dr. Farid
Fata, an oncologist from Michigan who intentionally
misdiagnosed 553 patients with cancer; they did not
really have cancer at all. His patients who actually
did have cancer were lied to about their chances
of survival so this doctor could give them more
extensive treatments. This is a horrific example of
patients and caregivers following a doctor blindly
down the wrong path--and, yes, many patients
died from treatment overdose.
The Title is "D-O-C-T-O-R" not "G-O-D"!
Why didn't these patients stand up to this
greedy fraud? The reports say that Dr. Fata "bullied
and browbeat" his patients. If a patient questioned
his authority, he would go so far as to blatantly tell
them "your life or your money"! His coerciveness
included telling them they risked death without
him. Fata's victims (the ones who lived through the
ordeal) are physically, emotionally, and financially
If just one patient had done any of the
following, this doctor could have been stopped
much sooner (one of his work associates finally
turned him in): 1) Get copies of all medical tests
results, including blood work. 2) Get qualified
second and (if necessary) third opinions, even if
the experts are hundreds of miles away from your
home. 3) Learn everything that you can about your
disease or illness using the outstanding resource
we have right at our fingertips...the worldwide Web!
4) During active treatment, if you see signs that
something is going wrong, address the concerns
with your doctor as soon as you can. If you don't
trust what they say, ask to speak to a supervisor or
It's important to emphasize one more fact...
your doctor works for you. If you ask questions,
insist on answers. If your doctor cannot answer
them, you may have the wrong doctor. Find another
one as soon as you can safely do so. 440,000 men,
women and children die every year in the U.S. from
preventable medical errors. By protecting yourself
and finding the right care team and medical facility,
you can prevent the worst assumption of all...the
assumption that any medical facility, doctor, and
healthcare team will be able to save your life!
Author's Notes:
Thank you Health Triangle Magazine for
this monthly article to help patients and caregivers
protect themselves when they enter the healthcare
system. Written by Joni Aldrich, Pulitzer prize
nominated author, speaker, radio program host
and producer, cancer, caregiving, and patient safety
advocate. Contributions by Graham Whiteside,
Vice President of Sales and Marketing SIMnext LLC,
and Chris Jerry, founder and CEO of The Emily
Jerry Foundation www.emilyjerryfoundation.
org and international patient safety advocate.