High profile friends have leapt to the defence of one of Australia’s best known brain surgeons while he faces an uncertain future.
Charlie Teo is fighting to clear his name amid a string of complaints including that he allegedly performed brain surgery on patients whose conditions were inoperable.
The celebrated neurosurgeon faced a NSW Medical Council ‘immediate action panel’ on Thursday, where he is understood to have strongly denied allegations levelled against him by other doctors.
Celebrity friends have come out in support to pay tribute to a man they say has ‘a heart of gold’ as Dr Teo awaits his fate.
Leading the messages of support was Australian model and singer Cheyenne Tozzi, who regards Dr Teo as a good friend.
The neurosurgeon operated on and saved the life of Tozzi’s mum Yvonne after she was diagnosed with multiple brain tumours in 2013.
Model Cheyenne Tozzi (left) leapt to the defence of neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo saying he was responsible for saving her mother’s life
Jasmine Stefanovic (right with husband Karl) also came out in support of Dr Teo on Thursday night by commenting on Tozzi’s post
Yvonne was given the all clear 12 months later after undergoing the surgery.
Tozzi posted a throwback pic being by her mum’s bedside in hospital in 2013, along with photos of herself and Yvonne with Dr Teo.
‘A lot is being said of Dr Charlie Teo,’ Tozzi posted on Thursday night.
‘I think he is a wonderful man and an incredibly talented doctor and neurosurgeon. He has the mind of a gifted fighter and a heart of gold.
‘He also saved my mother’s life, and his wicked sense of humour put her at ease during many scary moments.’
The former the Face Australia and Australia’s Next Top Model judge added she has been able to call on Dr Teo for numerous friends and family.
Dr Teo also offered to go with Tozzi to the For You Haiti school and operate free of charge to help the children there.
Cheyenne Tozzi (right) posted a throwback pic at the hospital bedside of mum Yvonne (left) after she was diagnosed with multiple brain tumours in 2013
‘As a family we have hope that he’ll be able to save many other lives and continue bringing joy to families like he did for us, and has done for countless other “hopeless cases”,’ she ended the post.
The post was flooded with supportive comments, including one from Jasmine Stefanovic.
‘He’s just the best,’ she wrote.
Cheyenne has previously opened up about her mum’s diagnosis and how it was ‘a bit of a slap in the face’ for the family after Yvonne had already battled cancer.
‘Charlie Teo, who is the best brain surgeon in the whole world, he really just got her good and he did really well,’ she told Daily Mail Australia following her mum’s diagnosis.
Yvonne Tozzi, also a former model, (right) is forever grateful to Dr Charlie Teo (left) after he saved her life
Celebrated brain surgeon Charlie Teo has begun a fight to clear his name after being hauled before an urgent panel of medical experts. He is pictured with WA teen Milli Lucas, who he operated on in 2019 and helped live for another two years
Charlie Teo is understood to have defended himself at Thursday’s NSW Medical Council panel hearing. He is pictured with his daughter Nicole Teo.
Dr Teo was understood to be representing himself when he fronted the NSW Medical Council on Thursday, which confirmed to Daily Mail Australia the 63-year-old had been called before the ‘immediate action panel’ – which has the power to suspend him.
It is not known who made the complaints against Dr Teo.
The NSW Medical Council said no further details would be released ‘while it is in discussions with Dr Teo and any potential regulatory action is being considered’.
‘This is to protect the integrity of the processes that the Council applies in all cases and to ensure procedural fairness is extended to Dr Teo,’ it said.
The urgent three-person panel hearing which included another neurosurgeon, will grill Dr Teo over several complaints, including what he allegedly told dying patients as well as performing operations that could not succeed, the Daily Telegraph reported.
A self-described ‘maverick’, Dr Teo has built an international following over 30 years by providing hope to cancer sufferers through expensive, so-called ‘last-chance’ keyhole neurosurgery.
‘As a neurosurgeon I offer surgery to patients from all around the world who have been given no hope,’ a message on his website reads.
Dr Charlie Teo and his model girlfriend and former patient Traci Griffiths, 46, attended the Rebel Ball Reimagined at Doltone House in Sydney on May 2
Dr Teo, a self-described ‘maverick’ has gained an international following for his work and also a celebrity status
The hearing was conducted in line with the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
The panel has the power to immediately ‘suspend or impose conditions on the practitioner’s registration as a temporary measure’.
It cannot remove his licence to practice, but that could be done by another authority.
‘Only the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal has the legal power to cancel a medical practitioner’s registration,’ a NSW Medical Council spokesperson said.
This could following prosecution of a complaint investigated by the Health Care Complaints Commission.
Dr Teo was threatened with disciplinary action by the NSW Health Complaints Commission in 2019.
He read a letter at a medical conference from the HCCC that warned not to make ‘comments which may undermine confidence in colleagues’ directive decisions relating to patients’.
He works with the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery at Randwick and is the director of the Charlie Teo Foundation, a cancer research charity.
Daily Mail Australia understand some of his peers are unhappy with aspects of his work, including his costs, the private fundraisers prospective patients use, his willingness to operate on ‘inoperable’ patients – and even his celebrity status.
Dr Teo works with the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery at Randwick and is the icon director of the Charlie Teo Foundation, a cancer research charity
Dr Teo’s peers have criticised praise of him as a ‘miracle worker’.
‘Something must be seriously wrong if a terminally ill girl with a brain tumour has to raise $120,000 to have surgery Dr Charlie Teo has offered do for $60-80K. If it was valid surgery, it could/should be performed in the public system under Medicare,’ urologist Henry Woo wrote on social media in 2019.
The same year spinal surgeon Mike Selby said: ‘Teo charges massively excessive fees’.
But patients and their families have been kinder. Monica Smirk, the mother of teen Milli Lucas called him, ‘a genius’.
Milli Lucas died in January 2021.
‘I was pretty devastated, I sort of stopped in my tracks when I heard the news, I just couldn’t continue with what I was doing at the time, it really had a deep impact on me,’ Dr Teo said on 6PR radio.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Dr Teo for comment.