Liposuction death: Family seeks $3.5m from docs, clinic

Dr Zhu Xiu Chun (left) and Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang admitted liability for Mr Franklin Heng's death two years ago. Mr Heng died in 2009 from suffocation when his airway collapsed because of heavy sedation.
Dr Zhu Xiu Chun (left) and Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang admitted liability for Mr Franklin Heng's death two years ago. Mr Heng died in 2009 from suffocation when his airway collapsed because of heavy sedation.ST FILE PHOTOS
Dr Zhu Xiu Chun (left) and Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang admitted liability for Mr Franklin Heng's death two years ago. Mr Heng died in 2009 from suffocation when his airway collapsed because of heavy sedation.
Dr Zhu Xiu Chun (left) and Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang admitted liability for Mr Franklin Heng's death two years ago. Mr Heng died in 2009 from suffocation when his airway collapsed because of heavy sedation.ST FILE PHOTOS
Dr Zhu Xiu Chun (left) and Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang admitted liability for Mr Franklin Heng's death two years ago. Mr Heng died in 2009 from suffocation when his airway collapsed because of heavy sedation.
Dr Zhu Xiu Chun (left) and Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang admitted liability for Mr Franklin Heng's death two years ago. Mr Heng died in 2009 from suffocation when his airway collapsed because of heavy sedation.ST FILE PHOTOS

The family of real estate firm boss Franklin Heng, who died after he was given too much anaesthesia during a liposuction procedure, is claiming at least $3.5 million from the two doctors and the clinic involved in the operation.

A five-day High Court hearing began yesterday to determine how much his mother, former wife and two children can get from the defendants in damages.

The doctors - Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang, 38, and Dr Zhu Xiu Chun, 51 - admitted liability for Mr Heng's death two years ago.

The chief executive of YTL Starhill Global Reit Management was 44 when he died in 2009 after the aesthetic procedure. A coroner's inquiry found he suffocated when his airway collapsed because of the heavy sedation.

One main item in the claim brought by Rockwills Trustee on behalf of Mr Heng's dependants is $1.1 million, the 20 per cent of the purchase price paid by Mr Heng for a Duchess Avenue property. This was forfeited when the deal was cancelled with his death.

Another major claim is for loss of dependency totalling $1.7 million. It includes the maintenance he paid to his ex-wife and children of $9,000 a month, $20,000 a year for their vacations and other expenses, and $1,200 a month for his mother.

The bone of contention is over the claim for the loss of inheritance and savings - technically the difference between Mr Heng's projected wealth had he not died and the net value of his estate at the time of his death.

The defendants, represented by Mr Christopher Chong and Dr Myint Soe respectively, sought to downplay the wealth he would have accumulated. They contend that he was not a savvy investor, that his primary bank account was in overdraft most of the time and that he gambled frequently.

But the plaintiff's lawyer, Ms Kuah Boon Theng, argued that he was a successful businessman who knew how to grow his wealth and had provided for his family even after the divorce.

selinal@sph.com.sg