The Medical Council of NSW has contacted Spanish authorities after a Melbourne man spoke publicly of taking his son to Madrid to be operated on by controversial neurosurgeon Charlie Teo.
The council imposed conditions on Teo operating in August last year requiring that he obtains written approval from a council-approved neurosurgeon before he performs certain operations – but its regulatory powers do not extend beyond Australia.
Billy Baldwin with Charlie Teo after having a tumour removed from his lower back in the Hospital Universitario Fundacion Jimenez Diaz in Madrid, Spain.
Teo treated the Australian patient at the Hospital Universitario Fundacion Jimenez Diaz in Madrid, Spain, last month.
The family of 20-year-old Billy Baldwin, of Frankston South, sought out Teo to remove a tumour in his lower back in July. The neurosurgeon had removed a tumour from Baldwin’s brain as a child.
Alistair Baldwin, Billy’s father, said the family redrew about $90,000 “off the house” to fly his son to Madrid and receive the treatment, after sending scans to Teo last month. The money included about $45,000 paid to Teo and other neurosurgeons, Baldwin said.
“It’s the last thing you worry about,” he said of the money, saying that Teo had performed “miracles” after his son underwent two unsuccessful surgeries at the Royal Children’s Hospital at five years of age and was told to prepare for palliative care.
He said Teo, who later performed three more operations over a number of years on Billy, informed the family their son could be paralysed as a result of the first operation.
Billy lost hearing in his left ear after the surgery, but has gone on to finish schooling, develop a passion for gym workouts and study personal training. Scans identified another tumour in his lower back last month, prompting the family to contact Teo.
An investigation by this masthead in 2019 revealed 14 neurosurgeons and related specialists had raised serious questions about aspects of Teo’s judgment, what was described as narcissistic behaviour, and fees charged to financially stressed people when public options were available.
The conditions imposed last year by the Medical Council of NSW require another neurosurgeon to be satisfied Teo has explained all material risks to the patient, obtained informed consent and informed financial consent, and complied with the use of systems and plans implemented into his practice for managing interstate patients.
A medical council spokesperson said on Wednesday the council’s jurisdiction covered NSW-based practitioners in Australia in accordance with national health professional laws.
“Other nations have their own health professional regulatory and registration bodies,” the spokesperson said. “As a result of information aired in the media today, the Medical Council of NSW is in the process of contacting the appropriate regulatory body in Spain.”
The council said it would not comment further.
Teo provided a statement to this masthead, via a spokesman, saying he was no longer performing brain surgery in Australia “despite demand for his services from both patients and other neurosurgeons”. He was now assisting in neurosurgical procedures overseas, providing advice to other neurosurgeons and lecturing.
The statement said Teo was still registered as a surgeon in Australia, but had been precluded from performing surgery in hospitals in Australia.
“I am passionate about caring for my patients and it is my intention to continue helping them here and overseas,” Teo said.
Billy said Teo removed a tumour in July from his lower back that was about the size of a 50-cent coin and wrapped around nerves. He said he had no doubts about the surgery, viewing Teo as “a real life superhero”.
The tumour had affected Billy’s movement, requiring him to stand for 12 hours of his flight to Europe. He said while he remained sore from the surgery, he believed pain from the tumour was gone.
The conditions on Teo’s registration are due to remain in place until an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission concludes or the council lifts its requirements.
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