Drug overdose likely, coroner told

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2006, 12:00am

Patient given more than doctor claims, professor says

An elderly woman who collapsed while undergoing liposuction most likely died from a drug overdose, medical experts told the Coroner's Court yesterday.

Piano teacher Lam King-fong, 70, was having fat removed from her abdomen by Franklin Li Wang-pong on August 28, 2003, when she fell unconscious after being injected with a local anaesthetic.

Cardio-pulmonary and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation failed to revive the woman and she died on the way to hospital.

Two university researchers told Coroner Peter White a drug overdose was the most likely explanation for Lam's death.

Matthew Chan Tak-vai, professor of the department of anaesthesia and intensive care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the amount of Rapifen - an analgesic - found in Lam's body suggested Dr Li administered more of the drug than he claimed. He said it would require a half of a cc of Rapifen to be injected to achieve the concentration found in Lam.

But Dr Li told Mr White two days ago he had only used one-eighth of a cc.

Professor Chan also said the drug combination used by Dr Li was 'unusual' and the dosage was 'exceptionally small' to produce the desired sedative effects for surgery.

'The patient would be screaming and suffering a lot of pain [with Dr Li's dosage of anaesthetic] during the operation,' he said.

Andrew Burd, head of Chinese University's department of plastic and reconstructive surgery, said a drug overdose was a more probable cause to account for Lam's death than fat embolism syndrome, which involves fat getting into other organs.

'Lam's case was not a classical picture for the syndrome. It usually takes hours or days to occur after the operation is done,' he said.

But Lam collapsed several minutes after the liposuction had begun, he said.

Fat embolism syndrome was suggested by the forensic officer as one of the possible causes of death.

The hearing will continue on Monday.