A Hong Kong doctor has been sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter in connection with a fatal liposuction procedure that killed a female Latin dance instructor in 2014.

The High Court jailed Vanessa Kwan on Monday, after she was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence in a three-hour fat removal surgical procedure on dance instructor Josephine Lee, who weighed around 250 pounds at the time.

High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The 38-year-old surgeon had left the operation room for about 50 minutes after removing fat from Lee’s back at the Regrowth Hair Transplant Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui on June 26, 2014, local media reported. Kwan’s assistants later noticed the dance instructor’s breathing slowed down and her face turned pale. She died after being hospitalised.

Kwan had denied the charge but was found guilty by a seven-member jury in late August.

Judge Susana D’Almada Remedios criticised the doctor as “seriously deviating from professional standards” by failing to provide a comprehensive assessment of the patient before the surgery and not keeping written documentation of the operation.

The judge also slammed Kwan for walking away from the operation room while Lee was still unconscious, leaving her in the hands of four untrained medical workers.

The defence argued that Kwan, who graduated from the University of Hong Kong’s medical school in 2006, had conducted more than 85 fat removal surgeries. They said the current case was a “one-time misjudgement.”

Tang Ka-ho. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

It was the second recent manslaughter case linked to beauty treatment blunders in Hong Kong. In 2017, DR Group’s owner and doctor Stephen Chow was handed a 12-year jail term, while technician Chan Kwun-chung was jailed for 10 years, for causing the death of a patient with a contaminated blood infusion. Another doctor Elaine Mak was sentenced to 3.5 years behind bars last December in connection with the DR Group’s botched treatment.

Police welcomed the court’s ruling on Monday, saying they hoped the verdict and sentencing could bring closure to Lee’s family which experienced “severe stress” following her death.

“We hope citizens can carefully read the information and consider the risks before choosing any medical beauty product,” said Senior Superintendent Tang Ka-ho of the West Kowloon Regional Crime Unit.

Asked why it took seven years for police to complete the investigation, Tang said those involved had to invite different experts to give their professional opinion and present a “perfect case” to the court. He said the force currently had no plans to press charges against other medical personnel involved in the fatal operation.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.