Nguyen Manh Tuong (L), the owner of Cat Tuong beauty clinic, and Dao Quang Khanh, a clinic security guard, in court on Monday. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre newspaper
A Hanoi court on Monday called for a fresh investigation into a cosmetic surgeon's alleged disposal of a patient's body following a fatal breast enlargement surgery last year.
Several hours after the trial began the Hanoi People's Court halted the proceedings and ordered investigators to begin a fresh probe into the case owing to a lack of details.
Nguyen Manh Tuong, 41, owner of the Cat Tuong cosmetic surgery clinic, stood trial on charges of defiling a corpse and medical malpractice, while Dao Quang Khanh, 18, a security guard at the clinic, has been charged with defiling a corpse and robbery.
The family of the victim, Le Thi Thanh Huyen, repeatedly and publicly objected to the indictment released by the Hanoi People’s Procuracy, the municipal prosecutors' office, prior to the trial.
The woman's family has sent a complaint to the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the country’s highest prosecutors' office, demanding that Tuong be charged with “murder.” Le Van Vien, Huyen’s father, told Thanh Nien the family would appeal any verdict that did not find Tuong guilty of the capital offense.
The family claims that Tuong, acting alone, exhibited reckless disregard for his patient during every step of the three-stage procedure –administering anesthesia, administering the surgery and resuscitating the patient.
Vien argued that basic medical ethics required Tuong to take Huyen to a hospital for emergency treatment the moment her condition began to deteriorate.
Instead, the surgeon dumped her body into a river after his attempts to stabilize her failed. Vien believes Tuong acted out of fear that he would be discovered to be operating a clinic without a license.
The family further objected to the prosecutors' argument that Khanh, the security guard, convinced Tuong to dump Huyen’s body into the Hong (Red) River.
“Tuong must be the mastermind behind the dumping,” Vien said.
It has been around six months since Huyen was thrown into the river, but despite the family's emphatic efforts, her body has yet to be found.
Vien claims the family has spent more than VND600 million (US$28,430) on enlisting divers and special equipment in the search.
According to the existing indictment, on October 19, 2013, Huyen, 39, went to the clinic to have her breasts enlarged. Tuong extracted fat from her stomach and pumped it into her breasts.
According to an official from the Ho Chi Minh City Cosmetic Surgery Association, the technique of using fat from one's body to enlarge breasts is prohibited in Vietnam.
The surgery concluded at 4 p.m. Thirty minutes later Huyen began convulsing and foaming at the mouth, at which point Tuong administered an anesthetic.
Believing her condition to be stable, the doctor went out to meet some friends.
At around 5:45 p.m. he got a phone call from his staff saying Huyen's blood pressure had fallen drastically and her skin had turned blue.
The doctor ordered his employees to begin CPR, administer anti-allergy shots and attach her to a respirator.
Tuong then called Nguyen Quang Thanh, a colleague at Bach Mai Hospital, and asked him to go to the clinic to attend to Huyen.
But by the time Tuong returned to the clinic, Huyen’s heart had stopped beating. He and Thanh tried to revive her but to no avail.
He then told his staff to destroy Huyen's patient files and any evidence of the surgery.
At 11:30 p.m. he and a few of his employees loaded her body into his car and headed to Buu Dien Hospital.
Khanh, the security guard, followed on Huyen’s motorbike with the dead woman's purse in tow. Nguyen Thi Hang, Tuong’s wife, accompanied him.
When Tuong arrived at the hospital gate, it was crowded and Huyen’s body had turned stiff.
At this point, Khanh allegedly advised him to dump the body in a river instead. Tuong agreed, according to prosecutors.
When they drove to Co Linh Street in Long Bien District, Khanh left Huyen's bike and bag on the sidewalk and got into the doctor's car.
The three then drove to Thanh Tri Bridge, while the doctor's wife allegedly begged her husband not to dump the body.
When they arrived at the bridge, Tuong and Khanh unloaded the body and threw it into the Red River.
After Huyen went missing, her bereaved husband discovered a consultation receipt from the clinic and took it to the police. The officers arrested Tuong and Khanh, the latter of whom had taken possession of the dead woman's iPhone.
Prosecutors said those members of Tuong’s staff who took part in the surgery have not been charged with a crime because her death was considered accidental.
According to the city Department of Health, Tuong's clinic was not licensed to perform cosmetic surgery.
Authorities at the state-owned Bach Mai Hospital, where Tuong has worked for more than five years, said they did not know he had a private clinic.
The clinic had 20 employees and was run by Tuong and his wife--a doctor at the state-owned E Hospital.
Tuong specializes in traumatology and orthopedics.
Huyen’s death prompted authorities to conduct a nationwide inspection of cosmetic surgery clinics.
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