‘You were not telling the truth’: Tense scenes as Teo rejects claims about evidence

Neurosurgeon Charlie Teo has been accused of being untruthful and changing evidence that had become problematic for him during a disciplinary hearing over his professional conduct.

There were tense scenes on Monday morning as the counsel representing the Health Care Complaints Commission, Kate Richardson, SC, told the hearing it was a “very serious matter” that Teo “deliberately gave untruthful evidence to the committee”.

Charlie Teo and his partner Traci Griffiths arriving at the neurosurgeon’s disciplinary hearing in Sydney on Monday,Credit:Peter Rae

Teo vehemently denied the allegations. He also objected to the framing of Richardson’s yes-or-no questions.

“Is there such a thing as taking the fifth?” he said. “I’d rather not say unless I can modify the answer.”

Teo also defended telling a young mother that if she had surgery she might live to see her six-year-old son reach his 18th birthday.

The surgery left the woman in a vegetative state and she died several months later.

Supporters for neurosurgeon Charlie Teo outside a disciplinary hearing in Sydney on Monday.Credit:Peter Rae

“My job is to give them some hope that maybe, maybe there’s a chance you can live a bit longer,” Teo said, agreeing he stood by his decision to perform the surgery.

“I would still offer the surgery,” he said.

Earlier Teo became tearful as he was mobbed by supporters on his way into the hearing, one of whom tried to interject on Teo’s behalf during cross-examination.

The Health Care Complaints Commission’s professional standards committee inquiry is hearing two complaints of unsatisfactory conduct by Teo, including that he did not sufficiently inform patients about the risks of their surgeries.

Charlie Teo is greeted by supporters outside a disciplinary hearing in Sydney on Monday.Credit:Peter Rae

The hearing has heard that two female patients, who can’t be identified, were left in a vegetative state after Teo operated on them. Their initial neurosurgeons had told them their tumours were inoperable.

On Monday, Teo was grilled over evidence he gave to the committee last week about the first patient from Perth, who had been diagnosed with a fast-growing and aggressive brain tumour known as a high-grade glioblastoma.

Her husband took notes of an October 2018 consultation with Teo, including that there was a 5 per cent risk of death and a 50 per cent risk of minor complications, such as a wonky eye and tingling down one side.

Supporters outside a disciplinary hearing for neurosurgeon Charlie Teo on Monday.Credit:Peter Rae

Last week, Teo told the hearing that he didn’t bring up the precise location of the tumour – and whether it was in an area of the brain stem called the tectal plate or the tegmentum – because he didn’t want to confuse the family.

“I’m going to suggest you were not telling the truth and you had expressly discussed the difference … do you agree with that?” Richardson asked.

“No,” Teo replied.

Richardson accused Teo of changing his evidence in order to sidestep the evidence given by expert witnesses and because he had “joined the dots” that earlier evidence he had given would become problematic.

Teo was also grilled about statements he made to the media last week outside the hearing that the husband who had complained about the disastrous outcomes of the surgery on his late wife may have been coerced or hoodwinked into giving evidence against him.

Teo agreed he said words to that effect.

“The relationship soured, how I don’t know,” Teo said.

“I made the assumption it was because he’d been got to by my enemies.”

The hearing continues.

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