Much has been written recently about Dr Farid Fata, the oncologist who lied, bullied. and treated five hundred patients for cancer who never had the disease and grossly over-treated those who actually did. His total lack of ethics and humanity is astounding. Intentional crimes against patients are heinous enough in their own right, but his additional crimes included health care fraud, money laundering and attempted medical kickbacks. Patients who got behind on his exorbitant charges received a nasty phone call from Dr. Fata demanding “his” money. Sadly for so many, he never reflected on the sacred duty all physicians are guided by – the renowned Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. Thank goodness for the whistle blower who reported the doctor’s immoral practices quickly putting an end to them. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Many patients and family members, disappointed and still suffering greatly, were hoping Dr. Fata would receive a life sentence. No matter how lengthy his sentence, no punishment could assuage the betrayal, the shock, the pain and the trauma these patients endured at his hands.
Although this is an extreme example of an unconscionable medical practitioner, it serves as a reminder to all of us – to ask questions of our healthcare provider, to seek a second opinion when a serious treatment/surgery is indicated, to learn what we can on our own and to fully expect a mutually respectful relationship between patient and healthcare provider. Dr. Fata was a master at initmidating patients who had the “audacity” to question him. If you’re a patient of an intimidating physician, heed that flashing, red warning sign – danger, danger – and start contemplating your next move.
Young or old, no matter their age, many people are uncomfortable asking their physician questions relating to treatment or diagnosis. If you’re a patient in a practice that doesn’t allow you to participate in your healthcare through an open, free flowing conversation with your provider, it’s time to speak up and ask for what you need. In the biggest research hospital in the world, The National Institutes of Health, there’s a large printed poster with bold lettering displayed prominently. You know what it says? SPEAK UP! If after speaking up your needs still go unmet, now’s the time to make that move to another provider.
Trust your common sense. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid to speak up and get a second opinion. Most insurance companies will pay for one. Even if yours doesn’t, call them back and ask again, explaining your concerns, telling your story in great detail. I’ve often found there’s someone with a heart at the other end of the insurance company’s phone who will try to help you. It’s fine to politely ask to speak to their boss, although they may tell you that’s not going to make a difference. Go ahead and ask anyway. I know you can find a way to get a second opinion – through your insurance company or even if necessary, borrrowing the money from your mother-in-law!
Years ago I chose to seek a second opinion. My doctor, Dr. X, thought I needed immediate treatment for a chronic health problem. Concerned, I sought a second opinion with the full support of Dr. X. It turned out to be the right choice for me. Six years passed before treatment was really necessary. Trust yourself.
You deserve the best care possible. Keep looking until you find a healthcare provider you trust, who listens and who supports you. It’s your body, your health, your life and your choice.