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59-year-old doctor gets 6 weeks' jail for causing death of liposuction patient

SINGAPORE — A doctor who caused the death of a patient in a botched liposuction procedure was sentenced to six weeks’ jail on Friday (Nov 18). 

Zhu Xiu Chun was instructed by a fellow doctor, Wong Meng Heng, to administer an excessive dosage of the sedative propofol to a patient undergoing a liposuction procedure.
Zhu Xiu Chun was instructed by a fellow doctor, Wong Meng Heng, to administer an excessive dosage of the sedative propofol to a patient undergoing a liposuction procedure.
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  • Zhu Xiu Chun, 59, was sentenced to six weeks' jail for causing the death of a liposuction patient 
  • She and another doctor had incompetently used a potent sedative 
  • She pleaded guilty to one charge of causing death by a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide

SINGAPORE — A doctor who caused the death of a patient in a botched liposuction procedure was sentenced to six weeks’ jail on Friday (Nov 18). 

Zhu Xiu Chun, 59, also known as Myint Myint Kyi, pleaded guilty to one charge of causing death by a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide. 

She was instructed by a fellow doctor, Wong Meng Hang, to administer an excessive dosage of the sedative propofol to a patient undergoing a liposuction procedure. 

This led to the death of property management boss Franklin Heng Ang Tee, 44. It was the first fatality here arising from aesthetic treatment.

Wong was sentenced earlier on June 16 to four months’ jail after pleading guilty to one charge of causing death by a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide. 

WHAT HAPPENED 

At the time of the incident, Wong and Zhu were registered doctors at Reves Clinic, an aesthetic clinic that has since been renamed Yume Aesthetic & Medical Clinic.   

On Dec 4, 2009, Heng visited the clinic for a consultation with Wong to undergo a type of liposuction procedure known as a vibration amplification of sound energy at resonance assisted lipoplasty (Vaser liposuction).

Without reviewing Heng’s medical records, Wong mistakenly thought that he had undergone it previously and assessed him to be suitable for the procedure. 

Wong chose to use propofol to sedate the patient, with Zhu assisting in the procedure.

However, the procedure could have been conducted without the use of propofol, using just pethidine — a type of pain relief medicine.

Propofol is a powerful sedative that can rapidly obstruct breathing and cause blood pressure to fall. 

It was the same one that killed pop star Michael Jackson, who was given a large dose of propofol by a doctor to treat his chronic insomnia but left him unattended.

Before conducting the operation on Dec 30, 2009 at about 12.30pm, Wong and Zhu had not undergone any specific training for the administration of propofol. 

In line with international guidelines at the time, hospitals in Singapore had adopted the practice of having a dedicated nurse or doctor trained in handling sedatives focused solely on administering them during an operation. 

Court documents showed that Zhu did not know why propofol was used for the procedure and relied on Wong’s orders in regard to the dosage of propofol to be administered to Heng. 

During the entire procedure, the total dosage of propofol administered to Heng was higher than 90ml, which was considered excessive, placing him in a state of deep sedation. 

This was not necessary for such a procedure, court documents stated.

The pair also did not know that Heng had entered a state of deep sedation because they failed to monitor him properly. 

When the liposuction procedure ended, the doctors left him at around 4pm with an unregistered nurse.

Ten minutes later, Wong returned and realised that he could not rouse Heng.

Even after providing oxygen to the patient, he had no pulse.

Wong then performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him.

An ambulance was called at 4.30pm and Heng was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6pm. 

CAUSE OF DEATH

The hospital's report showed that Heng’s cause of death was multiple punctures of the intestines due to liposuction as well as the excessive dosage of propofol. 

An autopsy report by the Health Sciences Authority stated that as Heng was placed in a state of deep sedation, his airway was obstructed and he later died of asphyxia.

Asphyxia occurs when a person does not have enough oxygen, which can lead to unconsciousness or death. 

Deputy Public Prosecutors Goh Qi Shuen, Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Andre Chong sought a sentence of six to eight weeks’ jail. 

“The offender did not know or realise the consequences of administering propofol, did not appreciate the danger signs, and as a result, did not take steps to ensure the proper supervision and monitoring of the patient during and after the procedure,” they said. 

For causing death by a negligent act, Zhu could have been jailed for up to two years or fined, or punished with both.

Related topics

court crime liposuction

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