It is now about 3 weeks since I posted two tweets that were to create a media storm. A week later I wrote an Opinion Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald to clarify those two tweets.
I have made absolutely no other comment to the media and yet this discussion has remained in the news even to this point in time. I have kept a low profile on this subject matter and allowed others to make their commentary.
I have been told to stop harrassing Dr Teo. I am being told that my tweets are defamatory, insulting and personally critical of Dr Teo. People have been quick to criticise me on the basis of hearing reports that describe my tweets as being as such, without having seen my tweets.
Let's take a look at my very first tweet:-
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.— Henry Woo (@DrHWoo) May 24, 2019
If it was valid surgery, it could/should be performed in the public system under Medicare #auspol https://t.co/8s7L5mcuAZ
The first part about "Something is seriosuly wrong if a terminally ill girl with a brain tumour has to raise....." is a valid observation. Anybody who does not think that there is something wrong that we are seeing this happening lacks heart. It means that we must question our existing access to health care. This is not an attack on anybody.
Now let's look at the $120K and the $60-80K part. I have been accused of making up these figures and suggesting that this is what Dr Teo actually pockets for himself. I have been told to get my facts right. These are NOT my dollar amounts.
These figures are simply direct quotes from the linked article in the tweet. The Daily Mail article derives these figures from what is stated in the Lucas family interview with Today Tonight which is linked in their article. Once again, these are just quotations from the linked article.
Now for the part about "if this was valid surgery.....". Surgery in the public hospital system has to have evidence base in order to be permitted to be carried out. If this surgery was not able to be performed in the public hospital system for whatever reason, is it wrong to question as to whether there is an issue with the public hospital system or as to whether there is an issue with the type of surgery being offered.
Now let's take a look at my second tweet:-
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.— Henry Woo (@DrHWoo) May 24, 2019
I find this really disturbing. pic.twitter.com/j4ZQRNHXvQ
On a review of the GoFundMe website, the overwhelming number of requests for donations for surgery by any one single person was for Dr Charlie Teo. The search term "Charlie Teo" was entered into the search bar and this returned 113 results. The numbers on this search are dynamic but the screenshot attached to this tweet shows that on that particular day, there were 113. The exact numbers are irrelevant.
Even if there were only 10 to 20 campaigns for just one person, I would still find this disturbing. It was no personal attack on Dr Teo but simply an observation that there were a lot of campaigns, past and present, that were for seeking money to pay for surgery by one person. If Dr Teo's services were so frequently sought that the system could not accommodate those who needed his help, then that must be considered to be very distubing. It is equally disturbing that one person seems to feature so much on this crowd funding website so it is therefore perfectly reasonable to question and discuss why this is the case.
There is currently a mob mentality that is propagting that I am to blame for triggering a campaign against Dr Teo. I am disappointed in the manner to which this discussion has taken place, but through this background noise, there are at least signs that rational discussion is taking place.
I have no regrets that the issues raised are now being discussed in the public arena. No subject matter should be so sacred that the one who raises it for discussion should be vilified.
Once again, we need to move away from personal narratives and discuss the bigger picture of access to healthcare, evidence of outcomes and the cost of cancer care.