Georgie Gardener had an awkward on-air run in with renowned brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo after she questioned the steep price of his life-saving operations.
The heated Today show interview followed internet backlash aimed at Dr Teo for regularly charging otherwise-terminally ill patients six-figure sums for treatment.
Kicking off the chat was Georgie’s immediate line of questioning which centred on University of Sydney professor and prostate cancer specialist Henry Woo’s criticism against Dr Teo’s practices.
“Something is seriously wrong if a terminally ill girl with a brain tumour has to raise $130,000 to have surgery Dr Charlie Teo has offered to do for $60-80,000,” Professor Woo tweeted.
The impassioned response followed 12-year-old Amelia Lucas’ family crowd-funding $156,000 to treat her brain tumour after she was given just ‘weeks’ to live.
In the interview Georgie then attempted to break down exactly where Dr Teo’s fees go, and the reasons why they are applied in the first place.
But the globally-esteemed surgeon was quick with his response, shutting down critics’ suggestions he was cashing in on vulnerable patients.
“Let’s get our facts straight first,” he explained. “The fact is, although some patients do have to pay over $100,000, that doesn’t all go to the surgeon or even the team.
“It is in a private hospital, which is accounting to their shareholders. They have to make a profit.”
“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.”
In an attempt to keep things clear, Georgie straight-out asked Dr Teo how much he banked from the surgery, a sum he confirmed as $8000.
Dr Teo then claimed other Australian surgeons allegedly refuse to endorse his techniques as unique so he could perform procedures for free.
“It is a little bit unfair. If I was a child with cancer and in a foreign state who wants the very best care, I think it should be able to be done in the public system,” he said.
“But unfortunately, if it's done in the public system, you'll know few people have swallowed their egos.”
The pair’s debate was triggered after Amelia’s Perth-based parents scrambled to raise between $60,000 and $80,000 for life-saving surgery performed by Dr Teo.
The only other alternative the family had been given in their home state was palliative care, after local doctors said there was nothing else they could do.
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