Stop Prof Henry Woo and those who publicly disparage Dr Charlie Teo

Stop Prof Henry Woo and those who publicly disparage Dr Charlie Teo

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Dr Charlie Teo, hailed as one of Australia’s most respectable brain surgeons, has been working tirelessly to help many people with brain tumours to have a chance of survival against all odds.

On May 23, 2019, Professor Henry Woo, a urologist from the University of Sydney, took to Twitter and wrote a very disparaging comment about Dr Charlie Teo.

We don't think it's professionally appropriate for Prof Woo to do this, and we think he should retract this public comment and apologize to Dr Teo.

Prof Woo said: "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. If it was valid surgery, it could/should be performed in the public system under Medicare"; and "On a search on GoFundMe for “Charlie Teo” there are 113 campaigns listed, that mention him as the surgeon for which donations are sought to pay for his services. I find this really disturbing.

Dr Charlie Teo had to come out to defend himself against this public spat. On Channel 9's The Today Show, Dr Teo explained how false and misleading Prof Woo's claims were. 

So, for example, that $120,000 bill that Henry Woo is talking about, $80,000 to the private hospital. $40,000 then gets dispersed among not only the surgeon, the assistant, anaesthetist, pathologist, radiologist, radiographer.” Dr Teo said. Of the 120 thousand dollars, Dr Teo claimed he received only 8 thousand dollars.

At the HPARA conference in Canberra on June 8, 2019, Dr Teo explained that of the 113 campaigns listed, only two were related to funding for the private neurosurgery while others were about raising funds for his foundations and other non-surgical matters.

Dr Teo reportedly said the governing bodies used different methods to carry out "a purge" including sham peer reviews, creating a hostile work environment and financial attacks against independent physicians.

This kind of overwhelming prejudice and vilification against Dr Teo could see him leaving the Australian healthcare system which will be a great loss to Australians who needed his expertise and service.

A petition is currently urging the Minister of Health to invite Dr Teo to work in the public hospitals to operate on difficulty brain tumours that other neurosurgeons are unable to or unwilling to operate. The outpouring of support for Dr Teo is phenomenal with over 123,000 people signing this petition.

We now heard that his patient, Amelia Lucas, who was the subject of this debacle is now recovering from the brain surgery Dr Teo performed, and we pray for her speedy recovery.

Without Dr Teo’s effort, the only option for patients like Amelia would be palliative care with a high likelihood of dying within months.

So, after patients were told by public surgeons that their condition was inoperable, who should decide for these patients on whether they should / could have private surgery or not?

Hon Mr Greg Hunt, our Minister of Health, was reportedly saying “he shared the concerns of medical colleges about the ‘small minority’ of specialists overcharging and causing ‘material financial harm to patients’ through out-of-pocket medical fees."

We want the Minister of Health, the regulators - AHPRA and the Medical Board, and the College of Surgeons (RACS) to address the public as to whether it is professionally appropriate for a professor of urology to publicly criticise and disparage a private neurosurgeon on social media?

Why is Dr Teo blamed for the high fees when most of the medical costs went to the private hospital and other specialists other than Dr Teo?

Why patients like Amelia cannot access public healthcare or government funding when so much of our tax-payer money has already been spent on running our expensive public hospitals?

Is Dr Teo expected to cover the costs of private treatment on behalf of his patients?

We ask whether or not the conduct of Prof Woo constitutes a breach of the Medical Code of Conduct for failure to show proper respect for Dr Charlie Teo and the autonomy (and privacy) of his patients.

Under section 4.4: Respect for medical colleagues and other health care professionals, the Medical Code of Conduct stated: Good patient care is enhanced when there is mutual respect and clear communication between all health care professionals involved in the care of the patient. Good medical practice involves: 4.2.1 Communicating clearly, effectively, respectfully and promptly with other doctors and health care professionals caring for the patient; and 4.2.2 Acknowledging and respecting the contribution of all health care professionals involved in the care of the patient.

Dr Charlie Teo did not refer his patients to Prof Woo for opinion, and neither his patients wanted Prof Woo's interference. As a urologist, Prof Woo has overstepped his scope of expertise and professional boundary by criticising a brain surgeon and his patients' autonomy, and worse still, made misleading claims with the intent to disparage Dr Teo's reputation.

Prof Woo failed to provide any effective solution to help Dr Teo's patients, and clearly failed to respect Dr Teo’s integrity and professionalism.

We, the members of the public, are outraged about this and would urge the Australian government and regulatory bodies to address this ugly and unprofessional conduct of Prof Woo and those who supported this kind of professional bullying.

We ask whether Prof Woo's conduct has brought the medical profession into disrepute and whether he should be stripped off his professor title and given proper disciplinary action in accordance with the professional standards expected by the public.

The public deserves respect from the medical professional bodies to make their own decision as to what kind of treatment they want, and doctors like Dr Charlie Teo who respected their patients’ choice should not be threatened, mistreated or distracted from acting in their patients’ best interest and from carrying out their duty of care.

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