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Blood therapy

Don’t sell experimental cancer treatment to crazy, barbaric or stubborn patients, High Court hears

Court is told about internal memos for staff at beauty clinic involved in death of woman and a letter of appreciation from the deceased over earlier treatment

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 2:09am

Staff from a Hong Kong beauty clinic at the centre of a manslaughter trial were told specifically not to sell an experimental cancer treatment to customers who were “crazy, barbaric or stubborn” but only to loyal ones, a court heard on Friday.

Testifying in the High Court, former beauty consultant Leung Shuk-yi said she believed it was beauty chain DR Group’s attempt to avoid trouble arising from its Cytokine inducted killer cell (CIK) treatment, which was marketed as a health care product. Prosecutors said it caused Chan Wai-lam’s death in 2012.

“They are afraid complaints will be lodged,” said the ex-employee, who left the company in 2012.

Horrific details of a Hong Kong beauty clinic treatment gone fatally wrong

For the first time on Friday, the court also heard about a letter of appreciation from Chan – who claimed to often suffer from flu – to thank the group for her “significantly” improved condition following CIK treatment in May 2012.

Chan died of a blood infection on October 10 that year, a week after she underwent another round of CIK therapy, which required blood to be taken, processed and reintroduced to her.

Prosecutors said there was no point for Chan to receive an “unproven” cancer treatment for a condition she did not have.

DR Group head Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing, employee Dr Mak Wan-ling and technician Chan Kwun-chung have pleaded not guilty to one count of manslaughter by gross negligence over Chan’s death.

The group’s 2012 instructions to staff, as well as Chan’s letter, were contained in internal notices sent to staff. The notices were cited on Friday by both the prosecution and defence to establish their respective cases.

One of the notices urged staff to sell the treatment strictly to loyal customers who had made at least three previous purchases. “Do not sell it to them until you can clearly see that they are not crazy, not barbaric and not stubborn,” it went on.

Hong Kong beauty clinic staff told to ‘seize the opportunity’ to sell risky cancer therapy, manslaughter trial hears

Other notices warned staff not to harm customers. Nor should sales staff “boast and oversell” the treatment by saying it could be used to treat malignant tumours or other diseases.

The group refrained from advertising the treatment, one notice said, because it did not want to draw the attention of new customers. The prosecutors had asked the jury in their opening address to consider why the treatment was so “secretive”.

“I don’t know,” Leung said, referring to the lack of advertising.

But the former employee said the group maybe wanted to avoid complaints and refunds when it urged staff to be mindful of not harming customers, even though she agreed with the defence moments earlier that it was because the group was concerned about its customers.

The former employee recalled staff would be given a “super bonus” when they successfully sold CIK treatment. It was considerably more than what they would receive for other treatments.

Leung recalled earning as much as HK$50,000 per month at one point. She said some of her colleagues made more than HK$100,000 per month.

The trial continues before Madam Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling on Monday.