Dance teacher Lee Ka-ying, who died on Thursday after undergoing liposuction at a private clinic specialising in hair transplants, had given birth to a baby daughter nine months ago and weighed 113kg at the time of her death, it emerged yesterday.
About 1.7 litres of fat were extracted from the 32-year-old mother of one by a woman general practitioner who was believed to have been the patient's friend for more than 10 years, according to initial police inquiries.
Dr Kwan Hau-chi, also aged 32, and four staff members began the procedure at 11.30am, according to a police source. At about 3.30pm, an ambulance was called to the clinic after Lee lost consciousness. She was taken unconscious to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, where she was declared dead at 5.06pm on Thursday.
"Initial examination showed fat was removed from the waistline in the back through four openings," the source told the South China Morning Post.
Veteran plastic surgeon Dr Gordon Ma Fong-ying said liposuction would normally be considered high risk when 2 litres or more of fat was extracted. Special medical conditions, such as obesity, which is linked to diabetes, hypertension and heart problems, would increase the risk.
On its website, the Medical Council shows Kwan qualified as a general practitioner in 2006. Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man said yesterday that general practitioners were permitted to carry out liposuction.
Senior counsel Joseph Tse Wah-yuen said that a doctor could still face criminal prosecution for manslaughter following a patient's death if gross negligence was suspected.
Lee specialised in Latin ballroom dancing and ran Ka-Ka Dance Workshop on the seventh floor of Kai Tin Towers in Lam Tin. She lived on the 17th floor of the same building.
Ng Se-ching, who works in a hair salon next to the dance school, said Lee was always ready with a greeting. He described her as fashionable, regularly dying her hair a bright colour. "It's really a pity," said Ng. "She was quite beautiful and was so young. Her child is so little too."
Ivy Leung, Lee's neighbour on the 17th floor, said: "She was a very caring mother, always carrying her baby everywhere she went."
Tse, who specialises in criminal cases, said a company, such as a beauty salon, could not be charged with manslaughter under the law, but might be charged with breaching legislation regulating its operation.
He added it was not easy to convict a doctor for gross negligence given that the court had to rely on expert opinions from doctors representing both the prosecution and defence, who usually gave conflicting views.
"Gross negligence is not simply negligence, but where the negligence is so severe that it becomes a criminal offence," he explained.
Reporters and photographers who tried to get answers about Lee's death from the Regrowth clinic on the seventh floor of the Kincheng Commercial Centre yesterday were stopped in the lobby by the building's security guards.
Attempts to contact Dr Kwan, the clinic and the clinic owners by phone and e-mail met with no response.