Man dies following herbal bath at clinic

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 April, 2006, 12:00am

A jobless man died after he collapsed while soaking in a herbal solution in a Chinese medicine clinic in Sha Tin yesterday.

Yau Chi-shing, 43, was sitting naked in a wooden bathtub at the Ichiban Wellbeing clinic when he was found unconscious.

Police said it appeared he had been in the tub for about 10 minutes when a staff member found him at about 1.30pm.

Staff told police Yau's head was out of the water when he was found.

He had already been removed from the tub when officers arrived. He was taken unconscious to Prince of Wales Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

An officer from Tin Sum police station said an initial investigation had found no suspicious circumstances and an autopsy would be carried out.

'Preliminary investigations showed that the victim had complained of feeling fatigued for a very long period before seeking treatment at the clinic,' the officer said. 'He had received similar treatment several times in the same clinic and he [had taken] Chinese medicine.'

A Chinese medical practitioner, Anna Wong Chi-han, said the herbal soaking treatment could increase blood circulation, but could be dangerous in people with heart conditions.

Ms Wong said patients could also absorb toxins through their skin.

A woman customer who had received more than 10 similar treatments at the clinic said she sometimes experienced dizziness and a fast heartbeat while soaking in the herbal solution.

'When I felt uncomfortable, I would immediately stop soaking,' she said.

A prescription issued by a licensed practitioner from the clinic was seized by police and a sample of the herbal solution had been taken for the government laboratory to test.

The Department of Health said last night that the public should consult licensed traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and follow their instructions such as the temperature of herbal solutions and the length of treatment.

'Good ventilation must be maintained inside a treatment room and it is not appropriate to take a bath or soak in a herbal solution when you have an empty stomach or are too full,' a spokeswoman said.

Ichiban Wellbeing is one of 20 traditional Chinese medicine clinics affiliated to Nong's Company Limited, according to Nong's website.

However, a woman employee of Nong's said the Sha Tin clinic was operated separately.

Ms Wong said it was 'extremely rare' for a patient to die after taking a herbal medicine bath.

She said in traditional Chinese medicine, studies existed on weakening of the organs that could cause symptoms of fatigue.

'Patients with weak organs have symptoms including fatigue and loss of appetite.

'The condition can be hereditary or caused by an unhealthy lifestyle including a heavy workload, lack of rest and poor diet,' she said.