Singapore

Family of woman who died after liposuction awarded $5.6m in damages

This article is more than 12 months old

Court rules he was negligent in performing liposuction, leading to patient's death

The family of a pharmaceutical company executive, who died at the age of 44 after a liposuction procedure in 2013, was awarded damages of about $5.6 million by the High Court yesterday.

Surgeon Edward Foo Chee Boon, who was sued by the family of Madam Mandy Yeong Soek Mun, was ordered to pay the damages after the court found he was negligent in performing the procedure at the TCS at Central Clinic.

In a written judgment, Justice Choo Han Teck said: "Dr Foo, who may well be a competent general surgeon, was not adequately trained to perform the liposuction and fat transfer procedures.

"Unfortunately, Dr Foo believed himself capable and thus did not manage this case as a competent surgeon in this field should have done."

The judge also said Dr Foo's delay in calling for an ambulance after Madam Yeong collapsed at his clinic was an act of negligence.

Dr Foo initially blamed the doctors at Singapore General Hospital's accident and emergency department for failing to resuscitate her, but dropped his case against them midway through the trial.

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 unevenness in her thighs. It was her third liposuction procedure at the clinic.

EMBOLISM

After a two-hour operation, she developed complications and was taken to SGH, where she died 21/2 hours later from pulmonary fat embolism, in which blood flow is blocked by fat particles.

In 2016, her family, represented by Senior Counsel Kuah Boon Theng, sued Dr Foo.

They alleged Dr Foo was negligent in his failure to tell her about the risks in performing the procedure, and in his post-operative care. He denied the allegations.

Justice Choo said Dr Foo had not adequately drawn Madam Yeong's attention to the risk of fat embolism. But the judge inferred from the evidence that she would probably have gone ahead nonetheless.

Turning to the procedure itself, Justice Choo said: "All things considered, it was more likely than not that Dr Foo had inadvertently punctured a blood vessel as he was injecting the fat into Mandy Yeong's thigh."

As for the events after the procedure, the judge noted that after Madam Yeong's oxygen saturation level fell, "the picture that emerges is that of total mayhem and confusion".

Dr Foo said he spent about 45 minutes trying to diagnose the cause of the drop before the ambulance was called.

Justice Choo said there was no reason why Dr Foo could not have called an ambulance while simultaneously diagnosing the problem.

COURT & CRIME