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Brain surgeon defends charging up to $120,000 for risky operations


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High-profile brain surgeon Charlie Teo has defended charging brain cancer patients up to $120,000 for potentially life-saving operations

High-profile surgeon Charlie Teo has defended charging brain cancer patients over $100,000 for his services.

Dr Teo, a Sydney-based neurosurgeon, has made a name for himself over the years by taking on inoperable cases and offering brain cancer patients a second chance at life.

But his reputation came under fire when a colleague slammed the ‘disturbing’ amount of online fundraisers run by patients unable to afford his expertise.

Professor Henry Woo, a urologist at the University of Sydney School of Medicine, criticised the trend after a campaign was launched for a cancer-stricken girl.

‘Something is seriously wrong if a terminally ill girl with a brain tumour has to raise $120K to have surgery Dr Charlie Teo has offered to do for $60-80K,’ Woo tweeted.

‘If it was valid surgery, it could/should be performed in the public system under Medicare.’

Sydney-based urologist Dr Henry Woo has railed against the notion of patients having to crowdfund their own healthcare

Dr Teo has defended charging brain cancer patients over $100,000 for his services, claiming he takes home less than a tenth of the fee

Sydney-based urologist Dr Henry Woo (left) railed against the notion of patients having to crowdfund their own healthcare, pointing to a girl who raised $150,000 to have surgery with Dr Teo (right)

The family of Amelia 'Millie' Lucas (left), from Perth, raised over $150,000 online so they could afford Dr Teo's surgery for a malignant brain tumour. Her sister Tess, 15, (right) also has the same brain tumour condition but has since been given the all-clear

The family of Amelia ‘Millie’ Lucas (left), from Perth, raised over $150,000 online so they could afford Dr Teo’s surgery for a malignant brain tumour. Her sister Tess, 15, (right) also has the same brain tumour condition but has since been given the all-clear

Professor Woo was referencing the case of Perth girl Amelia ‘Millie’ Lucas, 12, who made headlines last week after Dr Teo said he would perform open brain surgery that could save her life.

Her family turned to GoFundMe and were able to raise $100,000 for the potentially life-saving surgery in 11 days, exceeding the $100,000 target they had set.

Professor Woo said he found it difficult to reconcile Dr Teo’s mantra of ‘treating patients like your own family but leaving them financially destitute’. 

Dr Teo hit back on Tuesday, acknowledging Professor Woo had brought up an ‘important issue’. 

Professor Woo criticised Dr Teo after a 12-year-old terminally ill girl was forced to raise $100,000 for her own brain operation

Professor Woo criticised Dr Teo after a 12-year-old terminally ill girl was forced to raise $100,000 for her own brain operation

Despite undergoing a series of treatments, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy, Millie's brain tumour has doubled in size within four months

Despite undergoing a series of treatments, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy, Millie’s brain tumour has doubled in size within four months

‘The difference between public and private (and the) cost of medicine needs to be discussed,’ he told the ABC. 

WHO IS CHARLIE TEO? 

Charlie Teo is a Sydney-based neurosurgeon and director of the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick.

The doctor has garnered international media attention for his reputation to take on ‘inoperable’ or high-risk cases.

Dr Charlie Teo

Dr Charlie Teo 

Teo has been praised for his practices but has also been the subject of criticism for his ‘controversial methods’ and for offering patients ‘false hope.’  

Among his notable patients is Australian pianist Aaron McMillan, 30, who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor in 2001. 

Dr Teo successfully removed the tumour, but it unfortunately returned two years later and led to McMillan’s death in 2007.  

Teo also treated 2UE radio broadcaster Stan Zemanek during his battle with glioblastoma in 2006.   

Teo spent ten years working in the US after claiming he was unable to secure work due to his ‘bad name in Australia.’ 

The surgeon has defended his methods saying he is willing to extend patients’ lives if they are not ready to give into their illness. 

‘But what you have to remember that of that $120,000 (charged for surgery) most people think it all goes to me, and that’s not the case at all.’

He went on to explain that a large portion of the surgery fee would go directly to the private hospital, while the remainder would be split between the various experts involved in the operation.

‘For example, in the last bill of $120,000, I got $8,000,’ he explained. ‘It’s not even a significant amount for me.’ 

Professor Woo’s tweets sparked discussion on the ethics of charging patients excessive fees for healthcare as well as the issue of public versus private institutions.

‘The best surgeons practice in the public sector where their decisions are peer reviewed. It’s always possible 2 operate – the question becomes – is it safe and sensible. Our public sector gives great care if you have a serious illness. No doctor’s afternoon is worth $60K,’ one person tweeted. 

Professor Woo, however, responded that adequate medical care exists in both sectors – but patients should be better informed on the fees.  

Dr Teo has spoken of his motivation to perform the risky procedures in the past stating he is willing to help give people more time to live rather than condemning them to a death sentence.

In 2001, he successfully removed a brain tumour from pianist Aaron McMillan, who had been diagnosed with hemangiopericytoma. McMillan’s tumor unfortunately returned two years later and he died in 2007. 

Publicly-funded cancer treatment had been a topic of debate during the federal election. Labor leader Bill Shorten promised to cut out of pocket costs owed by cancer patients.  

Dr Teo was not available for comment when contacted by Daily Mail Australia. 

In a series of tweets, Dr Woo slammed the doctor for leaving patients 'financially destitute'

In a series of tweets, Dr Woo slammed the doctor for leaving patients ‘financially destitute’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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