Witness tells Teo disciplinary hearing of ‘desperate’ plight after wife’s diagnosis

The first witness to give evidence at a disciplinary hearing involving controversial neurosurgeon Charlie Teo said he and his wife were “desperate” when informed in 2018 his wife had only 12 to 18 months to live.

The Health Care Complaints Commission’s five-day hearing into Teo is before a Professional Standards Committee headed by former Family Court judge Jennifer Boland and has two Victorian neurosurgeons on the panel and one lay person.

Controversial neurosurgeon Charlie Teo is greeted by supporters as he arrives at a disciplinary hearing into his procedures.Credit:Peter Rae

The HCCC’s counsel Kate Richardson, SC, said that the HCCC was seeking that the famous neurosurgeon be reprimanded and conditions be put on his practising certificate. The nature and number of complaints against Teo are yet to be stated.

Over the weekend, Teo sent text messages and emails to rally his supporters. As a result, dozens turned up to the hearing that only had 17 seats for the public.

Cricket legend Steve Waugh and his wife Lynette, who had a blood clot removed by Teo, managed to secure seats but boxer Anthony Mundine did not.

Asked what he thought about the criticism aimed towards Teo, Mundine told News Corp, “There will be people that hate it … it’s a 50/50 game, you’re gonna win some, you lose some.

“But I’m here. If you want to kick him, come kick me too,” Mundine said outside the inquiry being held in Sydney’s Pitt Street.

One of those who had secured a seat asked his companion if Teo was complaining or being complained about. His companion wasn’t sure either. The pair left after half an hour.

The first witness, who was from Perth, said that his late wife had been diagnosed with a stage 4 glioblastoma, a fast-growing and aggressive brain tumour that invades the nearby brain tissue.

The witness, who cannot be named, said that, in September 2018, he was told by Perth neurosurgeon Professor Christopher Lind that surgery would be futile and “of no benefit whatsoever”.

“I have not recommended open resection of her tumour which would be high risk for causing neurological deficits without significantly improving her long-time outcome,” Lind wrote in his report.

The Perth man said that he had heard in the media of Teo’s positive cases, but not the bad ones. “We were grabbing onto any hope we could,” he said, adding that “desperate” was the word to describe their situation.

He told the inquiry Lind refused a letter of referral to Dr Teo.

The witness 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 his wife had the surgery there was a chance she might make it to her six-year-old son’s 18th birthday.

Teo also told them that it was not for him to say what quality of life his patients would accept but, for him, unless he could ride his motorbike life wouldn’t be worth it.

Details about the outcome of Teo’s surgery or what happened to his patient have not yet been outlined.

The Herald understands that one of the cases under review by the inquiry is Teo’s surgery on an inoperable brain tumour known as a DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma).

Experts from around the world have said it would be “incomprehensible” and “indefensible” to operate on a DIPG because of the damage it would cause.

Last October, a joint Herald and 60 Minutes investigation revealed that Teo had charged families extraordinary amounts of money for ultimately futile operations that catastrophically injured his patients, including four-year-old Mikolaj Barman.

Teo’s $80,000 operation to remove Mikolaj’s DIPG in Singapore in 2018 left the little boy unable to breathe on his own, or to walk or talk. He died 10 months after the operation.

In a podcast with businessman and former host of Celebrity Apprentice Australia Mark Bouris last week, Teo lashed out at the disciplinary procedures against him, saying it was driven by enemies and business rivals jealous of his “superior skills”.

“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.”

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