Controversial neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo has slammed the media and his professional rivals who he claims have “destroyed” him, saying they have “blood on their hands” of children he could have saved.
The NSW Medical Council has barred the 65-year-old from operating in Australia since August 2021 without written approval, following an investigation into alleged unsatisfactory workplace conduct.
Starting today, Dr Teo will face a five-day Health Care Complaints Commission hearing into five separate allegations against him.
Speaking to entrepreneur Mark Bouris on his Straight Talk podcast, Dr Teo acknowledged he had had some “bad outcomes” in surgeries but said it comes with the territory, blaming rivals jealous of his “superior skills” for making complaints against him.
Dr Teo recounted how he immediately began ruffling feathers at the start of his career after returning from the United States to practice at the Prince of Wales Hospital in the early 2000s.
“Within six months of coming back to Australia I got someone coming to see me from one of the governing bodies saying, ‘Charlie, what the hell are you doing? You’re pissing everyone off. Taking out these tumours that everyone else has called inoperable. You’re making them look bad,’” he told the Wizard Home Loans founder.
“I go, ‘What do you mean what am I doing? I’m doing what I should be doing.’”
He claimed he then showed the man a child’s X-ray that had been sent to him by a mother from Melbourne who had been told the tumour was inoperable.
Dr Teo said the fellow professional agreed that he would have taken it out.
“So you want me to write back to her and say, ‘I agree with the surgeon, it’s inoperable,’ and let that child die?” he recalled of the conversation.
“He goes to me, ‘Charlie, I do that every day.’ So he doesn’t piss off his colleagues.”
Dr Teo claimed he had been demonised by the Australian media.
Last year, a joint investigation by Nine’s 60 Minutes and The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed multiple families who claimed Dr Teo had charged them large sums of money while giving them false hope.
Other former patients later voiced their support for Dr Teo.
Speaking to Bouris, the neurosurgeon said he didn’t know “why a particular journalist or particular newspaper, a particular show or 14 particular neurosurgeons have taken on this task of destroying me”.
“But as long as they understand they have blood on their hands,” he said.
“I really want them to know that. I want them to know that, you might not like me, you might want to destroy me, and you’ve succeeded. But there’s not a day goes by that I don’t see a case that’s died, or was going to die that I could have saved. It’s terrible.”
He said he didn’t know “who’s behind it all but all the media has basically tried to make me look like I’m some sort of terrible person”.
“Once they came out with all those headlines, all the colleagues who were jealous and fuming, wanting to destroy me, go, ‘Yes, now we can go in for the kill,’” he said.
“It was like a wolf pack seeing blood — a feeding frenzy. All these complaints started coming in. Suddenly, Bambi was no longer Bambi. Bambi was a demon. And now we can go get him and we destroy him.”
Dr Teo said it had “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.”
He accused the media of trying to prevent him operating overseas.
“I still have the passion, the desire and the skills to do it, it’s just I can’t do it,” he said.
“There are some countries in the world that want me, but the trouble is that particular journalist has gone to those countries. As soon as [they] find out that I’m operating in a particular country, they go and try and destroy my reputation there as well. I’m not going to say anything at this stage, but a few countries have been trying to seduce me to operate there. So I’m hopefully going to be able to operate in some other countries.”
Dr Teo has come under fire for operating on patients with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) — an inoperable type of tumour found on the brain stem — with one leading American surgeon describing any attempt to operate as “incomprehensible”.
One such patient was seven-year-old Bella Howard from Shoal Bay in NSW, whose family paid Dr Teo $100,000 for surgery in April 2020.
Bella was left with left-side paralysis after the surgery and died seven months later after the tumour returned.
Dr Teo told Bouris his critics were unfairly highlighting a small number of “terrible” outcomes. “I’ve done 11,000 brain tumours, can we please talk about some of the good results?” he said.
“The judge at the time stopped me and said, ‘We’re not here to talk about the 11,000 cases, we’re here to talk about the two patients on the table.’ But that’s so unfair, because the outcomes of those patients was terrible. They’re using those bad outcomes to say I should never have operated in the first place. It led to my professional demise.”
He added, “There’s 11,000 other cases out there, of whom the majority have done well. I think that should be put into the equation as well before you start persecuting someone.”
The HCCC may reprimand or impose further conditions on Dr Teo’s registration after this week’s hearing.
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