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The Straits Times
Nov 18, 2022
A doctor has been sentenced to six weeks’ jail after negligently administering an excessive dosage of a sedative on another doctor’s instructions, leading to a liposuction patient’s death.
Zhu Xiu Chun, who is also known as Myint Myint Kyi, 59, pleaded guilty on Friday to intentionally aiding former aesthetics doctor Wong Meng Hang to cause the death of a patient in 2009 by committing a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide.
Wong was jailed for four months in June for giving Mr Franklin Heng Ang Tee an overdose of propofol, a sedative that he was not trained to administer. Mr Heng, 44, was the chief executive of a property management firm.
The high-profile case is Singapore’s first recorded death resulting from aesthetic treatment.
Mr Heng had visited the clinic in December 2009 for a consultation with Wong. He wanted to undergo liposuction to remove fats from his lower back and abdomen and have 300ml of the fats injected into his chest.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Goh Qi Shuen said liposuction is a procedure that can be conducted without the use of propofol.
Wong asked Zhu to help in the procedure and to administer propofol intravenously to Mr Heng without knowing if she had any experience with the sedative, said the prosecutor.
DPP Goh added that Zhu failed to exercise independent judgment in carrying out her role.
“Crucially, Zhu was unaware of why propofol was used for the procedure. Further, as the doctor tasked with monitoring the administration of propofol, Zhu should have determined the dosage of propofol herself with reference to the patient’s state of consciousness,” said the prosecutor.
Instead, she followed Wong’s orders and relied on his calculation of the dosage of propofol for Mr Heng.
The amount of propofol used on Mr Heng put him in a state of deep sedation, and he was unable to maintain his own airway, according to court documents. This obstructed his breathing and he died of asphyxia after the procedure.
The prosecution sought a jail term of six to eight weeks, noting that Zhu failed to monitor the patient adequately during and after the procedure and left him in the room unsupervised even though he had yet to regain consciousness from the effects of propofol.
Defence lawyer Anand George said his client had acted on Wong’s directions at all times and when he had allowed her to leave the room, she was not aware that he would leave Mr Heng unattended.
Before sentencing her, District Judge James Elisha Lee noted that Zhu had accepted the responsibility of administering propofol even though she lacked the necessary training and experience to do so.
Those who cause the death of an individual by doing a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide may be jailed for up to two years, fined, or both.