Husband claims loss of financial support for family in lawsuit after wife dies from liposuction

A file photo showing Dr Edward Foo (right), who is being sued, leaving the State Courts on April 14, 2014.
A file photo showing Dr Edward Foo (right), who is being sued, leaving the State Courts on April 14, 2014.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The family of a pharmaceutical company executive, who died at the age of 44 following a liposuction procedure in 2013, lost a substantial source of financial support as a result of her death, her husband has said.

He made the claim in a medical negligence suit in the High Court against the surgeon who carried out the operation.

Madam Yeong Soek Mun, also known as Mandy, earned about $420,000 a year as head of regional market development for Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific, a Swiss multinational corporation, the court heard on Tuesday (July 14) on the first day of trial.

Her husband, retired policeman Seto Wei Meng, 55, as the administrator of her estate, is suing surgeon Edward Foo Chee Boon for unspecified damages, which is to be assessed by the court.

A significant portion of his claim relates to the loss of support and loss of savings or inheritance claims.

Mr Seto, who is represented by Senior Counsel Kuah Boon Theng, contended that his wife paid for a large portion of the family's expenses, including the educational expenses of their two sons, who were 13 and 17 when she died. She also supported her parents, he said.

He contended that Madam Yeong would have accumulated more wealth, to be inherited ultimately by their sons, had she not died prematurely.

On June 28, 2013, Madam Yeong underwent a procedure at the TCS at Central Clinic to remove fat from her abdominal flanks, followed by a fat transfer to smooth the "dents" in her thighs.

It was her third liposuction procedure at the clinic.

She first underwent liposuction in July 2010 to remove fat from her thighs, and visited the clinic again in July 2011 to transfer fat from her abdomen to her thighs.

She returned in 2013 to correct irregular contours on her thighs.

 
 

After a two-hour operation, she developed serious complications and was taken to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where she died 2½ hours later.

In 2014, a coroner's inquiry found that she had died from pulmonary fat embolism, a complication of liposuction and fat transfer procedures, in which fat particles enter the blood stream and cause a blockage of blood flow.

The State Coroner expressed concerns about how the time of Madam Yeong's collapse was changed several times in the clinic's records. He also criticised the 24-minute delay before an ambulance was called.

In 2016, Mr Seto filed a suit against Dr Foo, the company that owns the clinic and the holding company that employs the clinic staff. The two firms are being wound up.

Mr Seto alleged that Dr Foo did not obtain informed consent from his wife before the procedure and that the medical care provided by Dr Foo fell below the appropriate standard.

Dr Foo, represented by Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, contended that Madam Yeong died from an extremely rare complication and that he had done all he could to save her life.

In 2018, the surgeon pulled SGH into the suit as a third party, claiming that it failed to resuscitate Madam Yeong properly after she was taken to the hospital.

SGH, represented by Ms Mak Wei Munn, called the action a belated attempt to shirk responsibility and blame the hospital for Madam Yeong's outcome.

The hearing, set for three weeks, continues.

In a separate case earlier this year, Dr Foo was effectively suspended for nine months for overdosing a patient and failing to send her to intensive care when her condition deteriorated.