Former aesthetics doctor pleads guilty to causing liposuction patient's death in 2009

Jim Wong Meng Hang will return to court in April. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A former aesthetics doctor gave a liposuction patient an excessive dosage of a highly potent sedative he was not trained to administer and failed to monitor the patient post-surgery. 

He then lied about the sedative given and omitted key details of the botched operation that led to the death of the patient in 2009. 

Jim Wong Meng Hang, 46, pleaded guilty on Monday (March 7) to a charge of causing the death of Mr Franklin Heng Ang Tee by a rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide.

Wong will return to court in April.

The high-profile case was Singapore's first recorded death resulting from aesthetic treatment.

Wong's assistant, Zhu Xiu Chun, also known as Myint Myint Kyi, 58, was earlier charged with one count of abetting Wong in his rash act.

Wong, assisted by Zhu, had performed liposuction on Mr Heng at Reves Clinic in Orchard Road on Dec 30, 2009.

Mr Heng, then 44, was the chief executive of property management firm YTL Pacific Star.

He had consented to the procedure to remove fat from his lower back and belly and to inject some of it into his chest.

The two doctors administered an excessive dose of highly potent sedatives - propofol -despite not being trained to use this drug.

The manufacturer's instruction stated that it should only be administered by physicians trained in anaesthesia or in the management of patients under intensive care.

It is the same drug that led to the death of pop singer Michael Jackson just months before, in June 2009.

Wong instructed Zhu to increase the drug dosage whenever Mr Heng was observed to show any signs of responding to pain stimulation, movement or discomfort.

The dosage proved excessive, and caused Mr Heng to enter a state of deep sedation.

After the procedure, Mr Heng was left unattended in the room by Wong and Zhu for at least five minutes, with only Ms Hong Jie Ying, 32, present. She worked at the clinic as a nurse, but was not registered as one.

Deep sedation raises the risk of airway depression and Mr Heng suffocated after his airway collapsed, court documents stated.

Wong and Zhu attempted to resuscitate him and the clinic's receptionist called for an ambulance.

When asked by the paramedics and doctor at the hospital, Wong claimed that the patient had been given Pethidine, a pain medication, and local anaesthesia but no sedation.

Despite resuscitation attempts by the hospital's doctors, Mr Heng died without regaining consciousness.

Wong then lied in his post-procedure notes, understating and omitting key details in the procedure, such as the amount of Propofol given.

Wong and Zhu were ordered by the Court of Appeal to pay $3.26 million to Mr Heng's family in 2016 after they sought damages.

In November 2018, the Court of Three Judges, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, ordered that Wong be struck off the register and Zhu be suspended for 18 months.

For causing death by rash act, Wong and Zhu can each be sentenced to a maximum of five years' imprisonment, or a fine, or both.

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