Dr Charlie Teo has denied he is ‘money hungry’ or ‘unethical’ after he was accused of charging desperate families large fees to operate on their loved ones – as he admits that if he was ‘driven by money’ he would have quit years ago.

The famous ‘last chance’ neurosurgeon told the Today Show that surgery was only unethical if it was done for reasons like glory, money or ‘proving a point’.

Dr Teo said his job was to be the patient’s advocate when deciding whether it was safe to operate – especially if their loved ones were desperate to keep them alive.

‘It’s no wonder you want to keep them alive because you love them so much and you can’t bear them dying,’ he told hosts Ally Langdon and Karl Stefanovic.

‘That is not a good enough reason for me to operate on that person.’

The famous ‘last chance’ neurosurgeon (pictured on the Today Show on Wednesday) said surgery was only unethical when it was done for reasons like glory, money or ‘proving a point’

For the last 15 months, Dr Teo has been unable to operate in Australia without written approval from a fellow surgeon due to restrictions placed on him by the Medical Council of NSW after the body received three complaints.

The surgeon appeared on A Current Affair on Tuesday night to speak to allegations that he charged exorbitant fees to the desperate families of young patients, a four-year-old Indian boy, and a girl, seven, from the Hunter Valley.

Both children had diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) – a very rare and aggressive type of childhood brain cancer that neurosurgeons label inoperable and incurable.

The tumour, which forms on the brain stem, is so aggressive and incurable that children who are diagnosed with DIPG are immediately considered palliative.

Mikolaj Barman from Assam in India, was one of the two children who was suffering from DIPG when his parents reached out to Dr Teo for help.

The operation to remove the tumour from his brain stem left him unable to walk, speak or breathe unaided again. He died ten months later, in August 2019, shortly after the tumour inevitably returned.

Parents Prasanta and Sangeeta Barman (above with their late son, Mikolaj) paid Charlie Teo $80,000 to operate on the four-year-old in a last ditch attempt to prolong his life

Parents Prasanta and Sangeeta Barman (above with their late son, Mikolaj) paid Charlie Teo $80,000 to operate on the four-year-old in a last ditch attempt to prolong his life

Bella Howard (above) died aged seven just eight months after Dr Teo operated on her brain stem tumour, charging her parents, Hunter Valley tradie Gene and his wife Sarah $100,000

Bella Howard (above) died aged seven just eight months after Dr Teo operated on her brain stem tumour, charging her parents, Hunter Valley tradie Gene and his wife Sarah $100,000

Bella Howard, of Shoal Bay, was operated on by Dr Teo after her parents desperately tried to prolong her life when a DIPG was detected on her brain stem.

She was left with left-side paralysis after the family paid Dr Teo $100,000 in April, 2020 for surgery and died seven months later after the tumour returned.

Langdon asked if the two young patients had been ‘collateral damage’.

Teo responded: ‘That is so emotive that term, Ally, it sounds terrible.’

Langdon continued questioning him, asking: ‘But I put that to you, do you have to accept that what you’re doing and how experimental it is that you have Mikolaj and Bella who are paying the price?’

‘They have paid a terrible price,’ Dr Teo said.

‘Mikolaj was the cutest little boy. I mean, he came up, he cuddled me, he called me Dr Charlie, and I’ve got to live with that.

‘But I still do it is because for every Mikolaj, there’s more patients who do well, who would have died that are either cured or their lives have been extended with surgery.  

 ‘I have more successes than failures, Dr Teo explained. ‘Those successes are very significant successes. 

‘The man from Germany was dying and I took out his tumour, he is now alive three years later, enjoying life. 

‘He is in a wheelchair but he rides a wheelchair bike, he still spends time with his children. And it could have been worse. 

‘He could have died with surgery or died four weeks later. He took that risk and it paid off. And he’s just one of several others who have done extremely well,’ Dr Teo said.

For the last 15 months, Dr Teo has been unable to operate in Australia without written approval from a fellow surgeon due to restrictions placed on him by the Medical Council of NSW after the body received three complaints (the surgeon is pictured with partner Traci Griffiths)

For the last 15 months, Dr Teo has been unable to operate in Australia without written approval from a fellow surgeon due to restrictions placed on him by the Medical Council of NSW after the body received three complaints (the surgeon is pictured with partner Traci Griffiths)

‘I am pushing the boundaries. But someone’s got to push the boundaries, and unfortunately some people pay the price.

‘As long as they pay the price knowing full well why I’m doing it. I do it for good reasons, to the greater good, for the benefit of the patient and sometimes it doesn’t work. That’s why we call it brain surgery.’

Dr Teo said Bella or Mikolaj’s families hadn’t sued him because he had been ‘acutely honest’ with them he outlined the risks of surgery.

Stefanovic said there was ‘constant’ reference to Dr Two as ‘money hungry’ and asked if the surgeon ‘grabbed too much from families who can’t afford it’.

Dr Teo said he wished he didn’t have to ‘grab anything’ and pointed to his four months of pro bono work overseas and $50 million raised for charity.

‘Money doesn’t drive me. Do I have to have money? Absolutely. I’ve got to pay my malpractice insurance,’ the surgeon said.

‘If I was driven by money I would have got out ages ago, I would have been in a business that brings in money.

‘If I was driven by ego or celebrity status, I would have had that and stopped.

The surgeon (pictured) said he wasn't a money-hungry person and that it was the opportunity to help his patients that made him eager to continue operating

The surgeon (pictured) said he wasn’t a money-hungry person and that it was the opportunity to help his patients that made him eager to continue operating

Dr Teo (pictured mid-operation) said he hadn't been sued by Bella or Mikolaj's families because he had been 'acutely honest' with them when outlining the risks of surgery

Dr Teo (pictured mid-operation) said he hadn’t been sued by Bella or Mikolaj’s families because he had been ‘acutely honest’ with them when outlining the risks of surgery

‘Patients call me every day asking to see me. Someone is dying, my child is dying, what can you do? To be able to say to them, yes, I can give you hope, or yes I can operate or, yes, I can give you a second opinion, that is what drives me.’

The controversial neurosurgeon was asked whether he gives patients with just days, weeks or months to live false hope or over-promises the surgery will be successful.

‘You’ve got to be in my shoes,’ the surgeon replied.

‘You’ve got to sit in that room, deal with the patients, feel the emotion, listen to all of that honesty. You have to feel my pain when the patient doesn’t do well and then if you’ve walked a mile in my shoes you can make a judgement. 

‘Until then, it’s too simplistic and reductionist to say he does that or does that.’

When ask if he would live to work in Australia again, the surgeon said it would be hard to work in a hostile work environment that could influence his practice. 

‘I’d love to work again in Australia but it’s hard to work in a hostile environment. I mean, brain surgery is bad enough as it is and then when you have knives poised at your back and media breathing down.

‘I’m sorry, but if you have media breathing down your throat looking for the failures and looking to condemn you, it’s added stress,’ he explained. 

‘The stress should be the stress of the operation. So I want to operate in an environment where it’s perfect, where I can just focus on the disease, that’s the enemy.’

 

Fresh details of the allegations came to light this week when Dr Teo was accused of charging huge fees to the desperate families of two children, one of whom was left vegetative and both of whom died within a year

Renowned neurosurgeon Charlie Teo, 64, said he didn’t want to work in a ‘hostile environment’ where his colleagues and the media were breathing down his neck



Source link