A visibly rattled Charlie Teo defended a “catastrophic” and ultimately fatal surgery, telling a medical hearing he used “logical thinking” and knows more than any other surgeon who specialises in brain stem surgery.
Earlier in the day, the hearing before the HCCC’s Professional Standards Committee heard allegations Dr Teo asked a terminal patient he was due to operate on: “What the f*** are you crying about?”
The divisive surgeon finally took the witness stand on the fourth day of a five-day medical hearing, when he was grilled on his decision to do an “aggressive resection” of a 41-year-old woman’s tumour which other doctors deemed inoperable.
The woman never recovered from the October 2018 surgery and died six months later.
During cross-examination, the Health Care Complaints Commission’s barrister Kate Richardson SC questioned his judgement in doing the surgery when it was so risky.
She argued he did not properly warn the patient of the risks and was too optimistic in speaking to her about her chances of recovery.
Dr Teo agreed that the operation ended catastrophically, but he said he stood by his “sound rationale” behind doing the surgery.
The 65-year-old grew increasingly agitated as Ms Richardson asked him about the content of the preoperative MRI scans.
She pointed to the evidence of two experienced neurosurgeons from earlier in the hearing, who said the tumour was diffused and had spread to both sides of the brain, making the operation extremely difficult.
A frustrated Mr Teo told Ms Richardson: “please – you’ve gotta understand, my definition of tumour was different to theirs” and that it was impossible to tell if certain white matter was tumour.
“I thought if I kept to one side of the brain system, I could try to keep intact the other side – it’s very logically thinking”.
He told the hearing he said to the patient: “If I’m wrong and that very fuzzy stuff is tumour then it could be a very bad outcome”.
But Ms Richardson responded: “I wanna suggest you never said that to the patient”.
“Please do not ever imply I was trying to coerce them into surgery,” Dr Teo said.
Ms Richardson asked if he was concerned he did not agree with the evidence of his own witnesses, to which he said he has more experience than “almost anyone in the world” in these types of surgeries and he does not expect them to read the scans like him.
“I’ve confused you, obviously – but I didn’t mean to confuse the patient”.
Earlier in the hearing, the husband of the patient alleged Dr Teo sold false hope by saying his wife might be able to make it to their six-year-old son’s 18th birthday.
But Dr Teo told the hearing on Thursday he only tried to “instil confidence” after they made the decision to go ahead with the procedure.
“I think it’s incumbent on the surgeon to say ‘I know it’s a hard decision and I know I told you there’s a chance of death, but I want you to know that I have patients who are alive 8 years later,” he said.
“I was trying to instil hope with them after they made the decision to do the surgery.
“If you’re saying to me, ‘are you going to reflect on this because I had a bad outcome’, of course I’m going to. I’m going to try to not get the same tragic outcome.”
Earlier in the day, the hearing heard a complaint from the husband of the same woman whose MRIs were examined, in which he said Dr Teo told his dying wife:
“What the f*** are you crying about? I’m here to fix you – you should be happy”.
Dr Teo was supported by family members in the hearing. At one point, his daughter became emotional.
The hearing continues.
Story Credit: news.com.au