Blood therapy

Hong Kong beauty customer who died of blood poisoning was ‘most catastrophic’ case doctor ever saw, court hears

Senior medical officer at local hospital describes his treatment of woman following her blood therapy carried out by clinic

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 9:33pm

A doctor who treated a Hong Kong woman who died of blood poisoning following an “unnecessary” cancer treatment at a beauty centre called her death the most “prominent” and “catastrophic” case he had ever seen, he told a manslaughter trial on Wednesday.

Senior medical officer Dr Raymond Liu Wai-to said the type of bacteria found in Chan Yuen-lam’s blood was one of the most lethal he had ever seen and that a globally renowned microbiologist known for his role in fighting the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars, echoed that assessment.

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“This is the most prominent case I have seen,” said Liu, affiliated with Ruttonjee Hospital’s intensive care unit. “It was the most catastrophic form I had seen in my life.”

He had never encountered mycobacterium abscessus in blood. Nor, he added, had Dr Yuen Kwok-yung, who was called to the hospital to give advice at the time.

Chan, 46, died of septicaemia on October 10, 2012, a week after she received induced killer cells (CIK) treatment from beauty chain DR Group’s clinic in Causeway Bay.

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The treatment, learned from a beauty group in mainland China, entails blood being extracted, processed with enhanced white blood cells, and reintroduced into one’s bloodstream.

The prosecutors said the blood had been contaminated before being injected back into the bodies of Chan and at least two other women.

DR Group head Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing, employee Dr Mak Wan-ling, and technician Chan Kwun-chung have each denied one count of manslaughter.

It was one of the most lethal bugs we had ever come across
Dr Raymond Liu Wai-to, Ruttonjee Hospital

Testifying on Wednesday, Liu said he could almost diagnose Chan on the spot when she was admitted to the hospital under his care on October 4 that year. The doctor described her symptoms of infection – a dusky complexion, darkened limbs and hysterical state – as “obvious”.

Chan’s state was so critical that it was decided she be given a kind of antibiotics capable of fighting all possible bacteria before the right kind was identified on October 6, the court heard. Yuen was later called in for consultation.

Even after the the strain of bacteria had been identified, Liu said, three kinds of antibiotics had to be used. “It was one of the most lethal bugs we had ever come across,” the doctor recalled.

He said that, under normal circumstances, only seven days would be needed for fast-growing bacteria to be detected. But in Chan’s case, a blood test revealed that in just 34 hours a “phenomenal” amount of bacteria had been found.

Wong Fung-kwan, a DR customer who underwent the same blood therapy treatment as Chan, ended up with a bacteria infection as well, the court heard. She was admitted under Liu’s care hours before Chan.

Wong said that, on October 4, after tending to her, Liu managed to get hold of Mak and that Mak told him CIK treatment had been administered.

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Liu said someone from DR Group, following Mak’s request, sent written information to the hospital.

Through Mak, Liu got hold of someone named Billy, who appeared to be in charge of manufacturing the blood product injected into the women. The court previously heard that defendant Chan Kwun-chung was also known as Billy.

Only then did Liu realise CIK referred to the experimental treatment he knew of to treat cancer.

“I never heard of anyone using it as a beauty treatment,” he told the court, adding that the procedure should be monitored fully in a controlled laboratory.

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But Liu claimed Billy told him that “he couldn’t think of anything wrong” with the treatment. The doctor said the technician told him it was widely accepted in Taiwan and the United States, and complied with standards adopted in the US and the mainland.

Dr Chan Yau-ng, of Ruttonjee’s accident and emergency department, testified that after treating Chan and Wong on October 4, she wrote a note instructing staff to contact the Health Department for fear there would be a cluster of cases.

The trial continues on Thursday before Mrs Judianna Barnes Wai-ling.