Charlie Teo is not only Australia’s most famous neurosurgeon. He’ll tell you yourself, he’s the best.
At a disciplinary hearing in Sydney on Thursday, after hearing four days of evidence from the bereaved husband and dissident associates, he said:
The panel wanted to know why a 65-year-old man chose surgery for a brain stem tumor. His two other surgeons in Western Australia decided it was too risky to remove.
“I have more experience than most anyone in the world,” he told the room, his voice rising slightly in frustration.
“If you look at the literature on brain stem tumors, the largest series has been written by me. Most neurosurgeons don’t understand this.”
Neither of the two deceased patients at the center of the complaint against Dr. Teo can be identified.
However, both of them are women and sought out a renowned neurosurgeon to perform a very aggressive operation on a brain tumor after other surgeons declined.
One of the women approached Dr Theo in October 2018 when he flew from Western Australia to Sydney for “desperately” seeking help.
When Charlie Theo saw an MRI of the woman’s tumor, he said it was likely “focal” or contained mostly on one side of the brain, with a “5%” risk of death. I told her I could remove it.
Two neurosurgeons called as expert witnesses to the study interpreted the scans very differently.
They agreed that the tumor cells were likely already on the other side of the brain, and surgery could carry a perhaps 60% risk of death, or severe neurological loss.
Dr. Teo acknowledged that the surgery had been a disaster and admitted to the committee that he could have been wrong.
The woman never fully woke up. At best, she managed to write a few nonsensical sentences on her whiteboard before her death in March 2019.
When a Western Australian surgeon was informed of what had happened, he told the woman’s husband that he had made a “ridiculous decision” to see Dr Theo.
“[Dr Teo] It gave us a lot of hope.” said the husband.
The neurosurgeon’s transparency for two patients is under scrutiny after the family of a woman in Western Australia and another deceased woman’s family filed a complaint with the NSW Health Care Complaints Board.
Complaints are reviewed by a Professional Standards Board. This is a low-level, usually secret, disciplinary body run by state medical fraternity.
Decide whether to maintain or extend the restrictions already placed on Dr Theo’s medical license to prevent him from performing surgery in Australia without the written consent of an approved neurosurgeon.
The committee is chaired by former Family Court Judge Jennifer Borland and is made up of two other surgeons and a member of the public.
Despite the hearing being open to the public, Judge Borland has refused media requests to provide basic details about the case, including the actual allegations against him.
Dr. Theo, on the other hand, was an open book, stopping to answer questions from the waiting media each morning on his way into the building.
In these pre-hearing interviews, he claimed that the complaints were coerced by the patient’s family and that his associates were trying to “destroy” him.
And the dozens of grateful patients who had gathered to greet him, and those who had sat for hours at hearings, would agree.
Former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh and his wife Lynette Waugh were among the supporters on the first day.
“I’m not happy with the way Charlie was treated,” Waugh said.
“He has done an amazing job. He has performed over 11,000 surgeries. I can assure you that he saved my wife Lynette’s life.”
Lynette Waugh explained that Dr. Theo was able to perform microsurgery on her brain in 2006.
Referring to the many patients in attendance, Dr. Teo asked journalists:
The committee also heard startling evidence from the widowed husband of a second Victorian woman who died about a month after Dr Theo underwent brain surgery.
Her husband, also unidentified, told the hearing that Dr. Theo slapped his wife in the face after seeing her family unconscious after the operation.
continued previous evidence Dr. Teo also said from his daughter who claimed to have told a nearby nurse, “Place her in the bloody chair and tie her up with sheets if you want.”
The committee has heard that it is very common for patients to wake up in pain after surgery.
However, the slap allegation was condemned as totally unacceptable by three neurosurgeon witnesses.
The woman’s husband claimed Dr. Teo only warned her that the operation could cause memory loss and left-sided paralysis.
“There was never any talk that things might go wrong. It never happened,” the woman’s husband said.
“My wife used to watch Charlie’s videos on YouTube every day.
“To be honest, she thought of him as a ‘god’.”
The man also said Dr. Theo had given his wife, whose health had already deteriorated from a brain tumor, a sense of urgency.
“He said if she hadn’t had surgery on Tuesday, she would have been dead by Friday.”
Outside the hearing, the neurosurgeon was asked if his method was a little crude.
“Am I a sophisticated person? No, I’m not. Can I be considered rude? Of course, some people think I’m rude,” Dr. Teo said.
“Am I honest? Of course.”
He will continue to give evidence on Monday.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-02-18/four-days-neurosurgeon-charlie-teo-sydney-disciplinary-hearings/101989114 Inside neurosurgeon Charlie Teo’s Sydney disciplinary hearing