Liposuction death caused by "poor technique"

PHOTO: Liposuction death caused by "poor technique"

An expert witness told the court that the liposuction procedure that killed the CEO of YTL Pacific Star was not conducted safely and was caused by "extremely poor technique."

Dr Vincent Yeow, head of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery Department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, was speaking at the inquest into Mr Franklin Heng's death, reported local news outlets.

Mr Heng, 44, had gone for a liposuction procedure by Dr Jim Wong at Reves Clinic on Dec 30, 2009. Mr Heng became pale and unresponsive shortly after the surgery and died later that day.

Mr Wong is a general practitioner.

The cause of the death was found to be multiple punctures of the intestines and stomach caused by the liposuction procedure.

Dr Yeow said that he felt that a perforation of the bowel could be attributed to "extremely poor technique and inexperience."

He also said that it is highly likely that Mr Heng was deeply sedated almost to the point of general anaesthesia and had inadequate monitoring.

His view was supported by Dr Boey Wah Keong, another expert witness and an anaesthesia and pain management consultant.

Dr Boey said he felt Mr Heng had not been adequately monitored during the surgery and post-operation.

He added that Mr Heng could have had an airway obstruction due to still being under the effects of anaesthesia and hence unable to maintain his own airway. This could have caused a cardiac arrest.

Changes in a patients condition under deep sedation can occur within five minutes and the patient should be monitored even after surgery, Dr Boey said.

Dr Wong had stepped out for a toilet break for five minutes about 20 minutes after the procedure ended, leaving his nurse alone to dress Mr Wong's wounds.

Upon returning, he was unable to rouse Mr Heng. He then called for the ambulance and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

During the surgery, Dr Wong commented that a lot of tough and fibrous tissue had built up at the lower abdomen due to Mr Heng's previous liposuction procedures, The New Paper reported.

This made the insertion of surgical probes difficult.

Mr Heng had previously gone for a laser lipolysis procedure, which involves using laser to burn off fat, at Ageless Aesthetic Medical Centre on Jan 6, 2006.

Seventeen witnesses are expected to give their testimonies during the inquest, which will last till Nov 4, 2011.

Girlfriend unaware

Girlfriend unaware about death

Ms Mabel Leong, Mr Heng's live-in girlfriend, did not know he was dead until the next day.

Ms Leong, 31, who works in international marketing, said Mr Heng told her he was going for liposuction before leaving their Upper Thomson Road home at around 7am, The Straits Times reported.

In a statement read out in court yesterday, she said he did not appear anxious and did not request that she accompany him.

After the day passed with no news from him, she thought he may have gone to his office and sent him a text message in the evening asking him if he wanted to join her and her friends for dinner.

She waited for his reply till about 9pm before leaving for dinner.

By night time, she began to worry that she could not reach Mr Heng, but decided to wait. The next morning, she called his office and was told he was not expected there.

She then called the clinic to ask after Mr Heng. The woman who picked up the call did not give her any answers, and said she would call back as soon as possible.

Ms Leong felt uneasy and recalled a police car being parked outside her house the night before. This prompted her to check her mailbox and she found a note from the police asking her to call them.

When she called the police, she was shocked and distressed to find out that Mr Heng was dead and his body was at the mortuary.

She said she was unaware of his previous fat removal procedure in 2006. She described Mr Heng as a "healthy" and "health-conscious" man who watched his diet and went to the gym at least three times a week.

Ms Leong was not present in court yesterday.