First liposuction death: Medical council seeks maximum three-year suspension for doctor

 Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang had carried out a liposuction procedure on real estate firm boss Franklin Heng in December 2009 but gave the patient too much sedative. While he was left unattended, Mr Heng's airway collapsed and he suffocated.
Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang had carried out a liposuction procedure on real estate firm boss Franklin Heng in December 2009 but gave the patient too much sedative. While he was left unattended, Mr Heng's airway collapsed and he suffocated.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) is seeking the maximum suspension term of three years for a doctor who used a potent sedative during a liposuction procedure in 2009, causing the death of the patient.

The SMC's lawyer told the Court of Three Judges on Tuesday (Sept 4) that the council would not object if the court decided to strike off Dr Jim Wong Meng Hang for unprecedented professional misconduct that was among "the worst of its kind".

Dr Wong carried out a liposuction procedure on real estate firm boss Franklin Heng at his Orchard Road clinic in December 2009, but gave the patient too much sedative. While he was left unattended, Mr Heng's airway collapsed and he suffocated.

The high-profile case was Singapore's first recorded death as a result of aesthetic treatment.

In 2014, Dr Wong was fined $26,000 for breaching medical regulations. Dr Zhu Xiu Chun, who assisted him in the procedure, was fined $18,000. In 2016, the doctors were ordered to pay $3.26 million in damages to Mr Heng's family in a civil suit.

Disciplinary proceedings were also brought against the two doctors, who each pleaded guilty to a charge of professional misconduct. They admitted that they did not ensure Mr Heng was adequately monitored during the procedure.

The SMC, represented by lawyer Philip Fong, sought a three-year suspension for Dr Wong and a two-year suspension for Dr Zhu.

 

But the disciplinary tribunal suspended Dr Wong for 18 months and Dr Zhu for six months.

The SMC then appealed to the Court of Three Judges, arguing that the tribunal's decision would undermine public confidence in the medical profession.

Dr Wong also appealed, arguing that his suspension was too "severe". His lawyer Christopher Chong sought a six-month suspension on Tuesday.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash reserved judgment. The court will give its decision at a later date.