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The Straits Times
Feb 10, 2023
The director of a property investment firm who was unhappy that he was left with “high and prominent” upper eyelid creases after an operation to correct his asymmetrical eyes sued the plastic surgeon who carried out the cosmetic procedure.
Mr Lee Kong Ghee, 62, alleged that Dr Andrew Khoo Kian Ming, who practises at the Aesthetic and Reconstructive Centre at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, had negligently advised him and provided him inadequate or improper medical treatment.
The businessman sought damages for injuries, including discomfort and irritation to his eyes; sensitivity to light, sun and wind; a thick eyelid crease and inflammation of his eyelids, from Dr Khoo and the clinic.
Mr Lee’s suit was dismissed by a district judge, who found that he had been adequately advised on the condition of his brows and upper eyelids and the treatment procedures available, including a brow lift which he declined.
In a judgment published on Friday, District Judge Tan May Tee said Mr Lee also failed to prove that the injuries he claimed to have suffered were caused by Dr Khoo’s diagnosis and treatment.
Judge Tan said: “The plaintiff’s dissatisfaction with the aesthetic result of his eyelids after the procedure is his subjective opinion, which does not provide a legal basis for a negligence claim against the first defendant.”
Notably, the judge added, Mr Lee admitted in cross-examination that he could accept his post-operative look.
Judge Tan also found Mr Lee’s testimony to be unreliable and his credibility suspect.
She said he sought to portray himself as a Chinese-educated layman who did not understand medical advice, but the record showed that he has consulted various medical specialists even before he saw Dr Khoo.
“In court, he showed himself to be an evasive witness who exhibited bouts of selective amnesia throughout his cross-examination and displayed a distinct lack of candour in many of his answers,” said Judge Tan.
An instance of Mr Lee’s tendency to prevaricate was when he denied that he had visited a beautician to perm his eyelashes, and retracted this only after he was confronted with the transcript of a conversation he had secretly recorded.
The case arose from a procedure, known as a blepharoplasty, on Mr Lee’s eyelids to remove sagging skin and fatty tissue in October 2013.
Mr Lee, who was then 53, had first consulted neurosurgeon Alvin Hong to remove a lump on his forehead.
Dr Hong advised him that the lump was a benign bony growth, but Mr Lee wanted it removed for cosmetic reasons. Dr Hong also referred Mr Lee to Dr Khoo.
After Mr Lee consulted Dr Khoo, it was agreed that Dr Hong would remove the lump, with Dr Khoo suturing the wound.
While Mr Lee was under general anaesthesia, Dr Khoo would also carry out cosmetic procedures on his upper and lower eyelids.
The surgery proceeded on Oct 11, 2013, as planned.
At his third post-operative consultation on Nov 4, 2013, Mr Lee was unhappy that the swelling caused his eyelid creases to be higher and more prominent.
Mr Lee surreptitiously recorded his discussion with Dr Khoo during this consultation.
He then went on to consult other doctors, including plastic surgeon Martin Huang. On Jan 30, 2014, Mr Lee went back to see Dr Huang for Botox injections to treat his frown lines and to lift his eyebrows.
On Feb 11, 2014, again armed with a recording device, he returned to see Dr Khoo.
That month, he engaged lawyers, who wrote to Dr Khoo asking for his medical records.
Mr Lee filed a lawsuit against Dr Khoo and the clinic in August 2015 based on a medical report issued by a doctor in Bangkok, Thailand.
He alleged that Dr Khoo failed to advise him of the possible consequences of the procedure; failed to plan and discuss with him the various treatment options; and failed to provide adequate treatment.
He also contended that the outcome of the surgery was not the expected aesthetic result that was promised.
Dr Khoo and the clinic denied all the allegations.
The defendants said Dr Khoo had suggested a browlift procedure as Mr Lee had lower than normal eyebrows, but Mr Lee rejected this and instead opted for the blepharoplasty which the surgeon had said would be less effective.
They said the procedures and accompanying risks were explained by Dr Khoo with the aid of drawings as well as before and after photographs of other patients.
In her judgment, Judge Tan said two pieces of documentary evidence clearly supported Dr Khoo’s account.
One was the facial diagram that Dr Khoo had drawn during the first consultation on Sept 24, 2013.
The other was a letter Dr Khoo sent to Dr Hong on Sept 25, 2013, in which he summarised his diagnosis, his advice to Mr Lee, and Mr Lee’s preferred treatment option.
Judge Tan said Mr Lee’s secret recordings also lent support to Dr Khoo’s account.