Teo says complainants may have been ‘coerced’ or ‘hoodwinked’

Neurosurgeon Charlie Teo has claimed that the two men who have complained about the disastrous outcomes of Teo’s surgeries on their late wives may have been coerced or hoodwinked into giving evidence against him, Teo told media outside his disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.

The Health Care Complaints Commission’s professional standards committee inquiry is hearing two complaints of unsatisfactory conduct by Teo including that he did not sufficiently inform patients about the risks of their surgeries.

Charlie Teo and his partner Traci Griffiths outside the hearing this week.Credit:Peter Rae

The hearing has heard that two female patients, who can’t be identified, were left in a vegetative state after Teo operated on them in October 2018. Their initial neurosurgeons had told them their tumours were inoperable.

The Perth husband of the first patient said he and his wife were “desperate” when informed in 2018 that she had only 12 to 18 months to live.

The husband took notes of the October 2018 consultation with Teo, including that there was a 5 per cent risk of death and a 50 per cent risk of minor complications, such as a wonky eye and tingling down one side.

Teo also said that if the man’s wife had the surgery she might live to see her six-year-old son reach his 18th birthday.

I feel like they’ve been coerced. I feel like they’ve been hoodwinked.

The surgery was a disaster with his wife left in a vegetative state, the hearing was told. She died several months later.

The witness denied Teo had fully explained the serious risks. He also denied the suggestion that Teo said his wife might like to go back to Perth to see her children before the surgery as “she may never have that opportunity again”.

The second patient decided to go ahead with surgery in October 2018 after Teo said to the Geelong couple, unless she had surgery on the next Tuesday she would be “f—ing dead by Friday”, her husband has told the disciplinary hearing.

After the operation, her mother was a “like a vegetable” her daughter told the hearing. She died several months later.

Speaking to media outside the hearing, Teo said: “Both of those gentlemen, I loved them … [they] called me Charlie and we had a good relationship.”

The controversial neurosurgeon said that he had seen the Perth man’s original complaint and that it was about the medical system and not about him.

But then a rival doctor got to him, Teo said. He told the media that doctor said to the husband, “Oh, no, no, no, you need to complain about the doctor doing futile surgery.”

“I feel like they’ve been coerced. I feel like they’ve been hoodwinked,” Teo said of the two men who have complained.

“Don’t destroy people like me, don’t destroy the scientists, don’t destroy other people trying to do something to brain cancer. It’s a tragedy.”

Ahead of the hearing, Teo made similar claims in a podcast with businessman and former host of Celebrity Apprentice Australia, Mark Bouris.

He alleged that one of the doctors complaining about him is “in competition with me”. The surgeon also claimed that he was “being judged by your enemies … it’s totally stacked.”

He told Bouris that the worst thing about being “subjected to all this vexatious vilification by colleagues” is that it sends a message to “all those good, young, aggressive neurosurgeons” that “if you try and do what Charlie does, this is what’s going to happen to you”.

Teo, who will be giving evidence at his disciplinary hearing, told the media on Wednesday that “even those patients that are complaining, now, I did it in their best interest, thinking it was going to help them, it didn’t”.

Asked if he regretted the two surgeries, Teo replied, “Absolutely not.” He said what he was going through was soul-destroying. “I’ve devoted my life to my patients. I mean, you don’t, you don’t survive 35 years in the game doing the world’s most difficult brain tumours.”

He also suggested other neurosurgeons were jealous of his skills and had set out to destroy him, when they should’ve been thinking: “Oh, my God, he’s doing something different. He’s getting good results. And we’re going to have to upskill now.”

Of the current proceedings against him, Teo told the podcast last week that, “It’s got nothing to do with fairness, what’s right or wrong. It’s all got to do with people’s agendas. And the agenda is to destroy Charlie Teo,” he said.

“I know that I’ve got this skill … I take out tumours that no one else can take out. And all the surgeons around the world that watch me are just absolutely amazed by it. So when I operate in other countries, I get four or five or 10 or 20 neurosurgeons watching it, and they just are blown away by it.”

However, he agreed with Bouris that in Australia “the Tall Poppy syndrome” prevented his skills from being appreciated by his colleagues, the podcast heard

The hearing continues.

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