44-year-old mum second patient in 4 years to die after liposuction

A mother has become the second patient in four years to die following liposuction - after doctors lost their battle to save her life.

The 44-year-old, who has two teenage sons, was rushed to hospital when she collapsed in a clinic after the cosmetic procedure to remove fat from her abdomen and use it to make her thighs smoother.

Doctors then fought for two hours to save her but she died without regaining consciousness.

Last Friday's tragedy comes less than four years after the death of property firm owner Franklin Heng, who suffocated after being given too much anaesthetic during liposuction.

The woman was undergoing the procedure at TCS at Central Clinic in Eu Tong Sen Street when the level of oxygen in her blood suddenly plummeted.

She sat up and coughed, before collapsing, said general surgeon Edward Foo. Doctors then tried to resuscitate her until an ambulance crew arrived five minutes later and took over. She was taken to Singapore General Hospital (SGH), with her husband also rushing to see her. But she never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead two hours later.

It was not the first time that Dr Foo had performed liposuction on the woman - who had also undergone the procedure at another clinic in the past but had been unhappy with the results.

Dr Foo said she had appeared to be a low-risk patient. He added that he had not given her a general anaesthetic but merely sedated her - just as he would when performing a colon scan. "Her vital signs were rock solid throughout the procedure," he said. And in a reference to the controversial sedative given to Mr Heng, he added: "I did not use propofol."

A spokesman for SGH said it could not comment as a coroner's inquiry is pending. The Ministry of Health said it was aware of the case and looking into the facts.

Officials turned up at the clinic last Saturday, taking all documents related to the death. The issue of cosmetic treatments by non-plastic surgeons has been a thorny one here for some years. Plastic surgeons who spoke to The Straits Times pointed to dangers that arise if non-specialists carry out liposuction - which they say carries a risk in inexperienced hands. Guidelines permit general practitioners to perform it.

Dr Seah Chee Seng, who works at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said: "When you allow a whole bunch of people with a variety of training to do cosmetic surgery, you'll end up with problems."

Dr Wong Chia Ho, who has a clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena, added: "It makes a lot of difference. A plastic surgeon is trained to do liposuction. A general surgeon is not."