Arkansas doctor forgives $650,000 in medical bills for cancer patients

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An Arkansas cancer-clinic owner has forgiven nearly $650,000 in unpaid bills from about 200 patients.

Oncologist Omar Atiq wrote to his former patients at the now-closed Arkansas Cancer Institute in Pine Bluff over Christmas to tell them that his “clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients,” adding, “Happy Holidays.”

He told “Good Morning America” that he originally worked with a billing company to chase money owed to the clinic he closed in March, but was torn when he realized many were genuinely “unable to pay.”

“Since I started practicing, I’ve always been rather uncomfortable with sick patients not only having to worry about their own health and quality of life and their longevity and their families and their jobs but also money,” he told the ABC News show.

“You add to it the absolute devastation that the [coronavirus] pandemic has wrought, and you think thank God that we’re fairly comfortable and this was something we could at least do to help the community,” said Atiq, who is now a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

“I saw patients over the years who just didn’t have anything or who went bankrupt trying to pay for their treatment,” he said. “In many ways it seems like a totally unfair situation,” he said.

“I just hope that it made it a little bit easier for them. That’s it,” he said of his charitable move.

“I just hope that it gave them a little sigh of relief and made it easier for them so they could face other challenges they may be facing in their lives.”

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