4 months' jail for former aesthetics doctor who caused liposuction patient's death
A former aesthetics doctor has been jailed for four months for giving a liposuction patient an excessive dosage of sedative that he was not trained to administer, leading to his death in 2009.
His sentencing on Thursday (June 16) marks the end to the high-profile case that was Singapore's first recorded death resulting from aesthetic treatment.
Wong Meng Hang had failed to monitor the patient after delivering the potent sedative, then lied about the sedative given and details of the botched operation.
Wong, 46, had pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Franklin Heng Ang Tee, the chief executive of a property management firm, by a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide.
He was accused alongside his assistant Zhu Xiu Chun, a doctor who is also known as Myint Myint Kyi, 58, whose case is still pending.
In sentencing, the judge said that Wong's actions were the sole and direct cause of Mr Heng's death, but noted that the lengthy duration of court proceedings warranted a shorter jail term.
Wong, assisted by Zhu, had performed liposuction at Reves Clinic in Orchard Road on Dec 30, 2009, on Mr Heng, then 44, who consented to the procedure, according to court documents.
Despite not being trained to use this drug, the doctors administered an excessive dose of propofol, a potent sedative that had led to the death of pop singer Michael Jackson in June 2009.
Wong instructed Zhu to increase the drug dosage whenever Mr Heng was observed showing any signs of responding to pain stimulation or discomfort.
The dosage proved excessive, and Mr Heng fell into 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. Mr Heng suffocated after his airway collapsed, and both doctors tried to resuscitate him while the receptionist called for an ambulance.
When asked by hospital staff, Wong claimed that no sedatives had been used on the patient, who later died.
Wong then lied in post-procedure notes, understating and omitting key details of the procedure, such as the amount of propofol given.
Seeking four to six months' jail, the prosecution said Wong committed a series of rash decisions, such as telling Zhu to administer an excessive dosage of sedatives and failing to monitor the patient adequately.
As a medical professional, he knew the risks, yet he disregarded them despite the duty he had to his patient, said the prosecution.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan noted that the case had been delayed as it was a complex one that needed the input of many experts.
Seeking six to 12 weeks' jail for Wong, defence lawyer Suang Wijaya said Wong had believed that he and his staff were experienced enough to use the sedative, adding that the use of propofol was common then.
Wong has also struggled to pick up his life, moving from clinic to clinic over the years with ongoing court cases and publicity hanging over his head, said the lawyer.
His sentencing adds to a series of court proceedings that has spanned more than a decade since the incident.
Following a coroner's inquiry in 2011, he was referred to the Singapore Medical Council for disciplinary action.
In 2016, Wong and Zhu were ordered by the Court of Appeal to pay $3.26 million to Mr Heng's family after they sought damages.
In 2018, the Court of Three Judges ordered that Wong be struck off the register of approved medical practitioners and Zhu be suspended for 18 months.
Wong was charged in 2020 - a decade after the incident.
His jail term has been postponed to July 4 to allow him to settle his personal matters.
For causing death by rash act, Wong could have been sentenced to a maximum of five years' imprisonment and a fine.