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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Police review death of patient at cosmetic surgery clinic

Authorities conduct an investigation at a Phnom Penh surgical clinic yesterday morning after a patient passed away following a procedure. Photo supplied
Authorities conduct an investigation at a Phnom Penh surgical clinic yesterday morning after a patient passed away following a procedure. Photo supplied

Police review death of patient at cosmetic surgery clinic

Police said yesterday that they are investigating potential medical malpractice following the death of a woman shortly after she underwent breast augmentation surgery at a Phnom Penh cosmetic surgery clinic.

De Beauté Clinic in Russei Keo district closed its doors temporarily yesterday after Phai Veasna, 36, demanded an investigation into the death of his wife, Ros Sokny, also 36, who died on Sunday, three days after she had undergone breast surgery at the clinic.

Sokny lived in Kratie province and had four young children, according to Veasna. He said his wife had sought out the surgery after seeing advertisements for breast augmentation on Facebook and they had agreed together to pay $3,000 for the operation.

“She wanted to have bigger and more beautiful breasts,” Veasna said through tears. He said that doctors had performed a blood test on his wife and determined the surgery would be safe for her, but that she had been vomiting constantly afterward and had to be admitted to an intensive care unit, where she died.

“They could not save her,” he said, explaining that his wife’s liver, lungs and kidneys were irreparably damaged.

However, staff at the De Beauté clinic and the ICU where she had been admitted for her condition could not be reached to clarify her precise cause of death.

Veasna also appealed for help from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who after a similar death in 2010 called on Cambodian women to embrace their “natural beauty” rather than risk death through cosmetic surgery.

However, Russei Keo District Governor Chea Pisie said that the plastic surgery clinic that Sokny had attended was a legal medical business and had been properly registered with the Ministry of Health.

“The officials will investigate the cause of her death; whether it is that the clinic did not use proper techniques, or something else,” Pisie said.

Aesthetic plastic surgeon Dr Reid Sheftall, who trained in the US and works out of a different Phnom Penh hospital, said that the death of Sokny would be “terrible” for the patient’s family and the doctor.

“Going in for an elective procedure to enhance your attractiveness and then for her to not survive the procedure . . . it would just break your heart,” Sheftall said. “This is really serious work; you’re putting someone to sleep, controlling their heart rate and their ability to breathe. You literally have your life in their hands.”

Yet Sheftall urged people to research their doctor’s medical training thoroughly, rather than avoiding plastic surgery if they wanted it, and said a burgeoning middle class was pushing more locals toward breast augmentation, liposuction and face-lift services – even if half of his clientele today remain foreigners.

However, US-trained doctor Mengly Quach warned against undergoing any surgery in Cambodia, whether elective cosmetic surgery or otherwise, citing a lack of capacity in Cambodian medical schools.

“I wouldn’t recommend any surgery at all, plastic or specialist surgery. Not that we are not good, but we are simply not yet updated to the developing countries,” said Quach.

“If you have enough money to go overseas, do that, because you don’t want to risk your life here.”

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