2nd liposuction death: 'All she wanted was a trim figure'

SINGAPORE - All she wanted was a trim figure, when she went for liposuction. Instead, she lost her life.

The 44-year-old woman was taken by a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulance from the clinic to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) last Friday, where she was pronounced dead.

In December 2009, property management boss Franklin Heng died following liposuction.

Liposuction is a technique in plastic surgery that removes fat from the body using suction.

The state coroner said in January last year that Mr Heng suffocated after being given too much sedative during the procedure.

The circumstances that led to the death of the woman in this latest case are still not clear.

She had gone to the clinic in the central part of Singapore for liposuction and was under the care of the general surgeon there.

An SCDF spokesman said it received a call at about 2.55pm last Friday and an ambulance was dispatched to the clinic .

Paramedics arrived around 3pm, when cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was being "performed on a female Chinese subject" there. She was quickly transferred to our stretcher and our paramedics took over and continued performing CPR all the way to SGH," the spokesman said.

When contacted by The New Paper, the hospital confirmed that a Chinese woman was brought in but declined to give any details, saying that it has become a coroner's case.

Police said they are investigating the unnatural death.

Coroners investigate cases where the circumstances surrounding a death are unclear or the cause of death cannot be immediately ascertained.

When asked about this case, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it is aware of it and is "ascertaining the facts of the matter".

Its spokesman said investigations are ongoing.

The woman's family also declined to comment. Plastic surgeons told TNP that the case had got their community buzzing.

Many felt liposuction, like any other surgery, has risks and a hospital setting is the right place to carry out such procedures.

Fat sucked out

During liposuction, small, thin, blunt-tipped tubes called cannula are inserted through tiny cuts in the skin and fat is sucked out through these tubes as the surgeon moves them around under the skin to target specific fat deposits.

Complications could arise if a patient has underlying conditions, such as a weak abdominal wall, which the doctor is not aware of, and this could result in a tear that would require immediate surgery to correct.

An inexperienced doctor might also puncture vital organs, resulting in internal bleeding.

MOH had, in 2008, introduced new regulations following debate on whether doctors, who are not plastic surgeons, should be allowed to perform certain invasive cosmetic treatments.

Among other things, such doctors must confine themselves to removing no more than one litre of fat from a person during each session.

They also need additional staff to monitor the patient.

judith@sph.com.sg

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