‘Radical’: Neurosurgeon lashes Teo in hearing

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An experienced neurosurgeon has told a hearing a surgery by divisive Dr Charlie Teo, which cut across both sides of the brain, was “highly risky and unreasonable”.

Dr Teo has again faced a medical hearing to give evidence about two brain surgeries that went catastrophically wrong.

The Health Care Complaints Commission’s professional standards committee is assessing two complaints of misconduct by Dr Teo, relating two to female patients who were left in a vegetative state after their surgeries and later died.

It is alleged he did not sufficiently explain the risks of surgery to the 41-year-old Perth woman and 61-year-old Geelong woman, whose brain tumours other surgeons had deemed inoperable.

The HCCC’s inquiry resumed on Monday after the panel sought more documents and scans following five days of evidence heard last month.

Teo was greeted by supporters when the inquiry started in February.Teo was greeted by supporters when the inquiry started in February.

Neurosurgeon Professor Andrew Morokoff was called back to give evidence about the Perth woman’s scans.

The woman’s widowed husband earlier told the hearing Dr Teo had put the risk of death at five per cent and risk of minor complications at 50 per cent, and sold them hope of the woman being able to make it to her six-year-old son’s 18th birthday.

As post-surgery MRI scans showed about a quarter of the brain missing, one other neurosurgeons told the hearing that the surgery was the largest tumour resection he had seen in more than 50 years, while another expressed concerned about the “huge amount of normal brain tissue” removed.

Today, Dr Morokoff was asked if it was his view that Dr Teo’s resection of tissue went outside the realm he would consider reasonable.

Dr Teo faces complaints in relation to two patients whose surgeries ended “Catastrophically”. Picture: Tim HunterDr Teo faces complaints in relation to two patients whose surgeries ended “Catastrophically”. Picture: Tim Hunter

Dr Morokoff said he would describe the resection as a “radical” one which crossed the midline of the brain and went slightly past the “enhanced” – or central part – of the tumour and into the “diffused” part, which is where it mixes with normal brain.

“I would consider it highly risky and unreasonable,” Dr Morokoff said, adding such a radical surgery would be considered “more acceptable” in other parts of the brain.

But Dr Morokoff told the hearing it was difficult to see where boundary of enhanced and diffused tumour was, and therefore Dr Teo could have “unintentionally” crossed it.

“I don’t know if you can say what was deliberate and what was not,” Dr Morokoff said.

The widowed husband of the Geelong woman, who died months after the February 2018 surgery, earlier told the hearing Dr Teo told her she would be “f***ing dead by Friday” if she did not have the surgery the following Tuesday.

Dr Teo has maintained the patients were aware of the risks involved. Picture: Julian AndrewsDr Teo has maintained the patients were aware of the risks involved. Picture: Julian Andrews

The husband alleged Dr Teo said to the patient, “why are you crying? You should be happy – I’m trying to save you”.

He told the hearing Dr Teo admitted to cutting too far and into the wrong side of the brain.

Last month, the inquiry heard Dr Teo slapped a patient across the face in front of her family after she wouldn’t wake up from surgery, which one other surgeon called “assault” in evidence to the hearing.

The current hearing could result in further conditions imposed on Dr Teo’s registration.

The NSW Medical Council has already barred the 65-year-old from operating in Australia since August 2021 without written approval, following an investigation into alleged unsatisfactory workplace conduct.

That followed a joint Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes investigation which revealed Dr Teo had charged some families large amounts of money for operations that allegedly injured his patients.

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”.

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But Dr Teo claims he has been demonised by the Australian media and other practitioners.

The hearing continues.

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