Hong Kong woman who lost legs and four fingers to sepsis after botched experimental therapy says she was not told of deadly side effects

Jasmine Siu
·4-min read

A Hong Kong woman on Tuesday testified she had believed her beauty clinic doctor when she was told there would be limited side effects of an immunity boosting treatment that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

But the High Court heard the 60-year-old primary schoolteacher, Wong Ching-bor, fell ill within less than 10 minutes of receiving the infusion on October 3, 2012, and suffered from sepsis that required the amputation of both her legs and four fingers on her right hand.

“I felt really terrible,” Wong recalled of her experience after the injection at Mesotherapy Centre in Causeway Bay. “All my internal organs were twisting and turning.”

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

Hong Kong beauty clinic doctor tried over treatment that left client dead

Wong was testifying against Dr Mak Wan-ling of DR Group, who administered the injections that allegedly made her ill, disabled another woman and killed a third.

Mak, 39, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter over the death of Chan Yuen-lam, 46, on October 10, 2012.

Prosecutors alleged that Mak had breached the duty of care she owed to Chan by failing to ensure the blood product infused into her body was handled by a qualified person and was free of contamination.

The doctor was also accused of failing to obtain proper consent by explaining the risks with the “wholly inappropriate” experimental treatment.

Dr Mak Wan-ling of DR Group at the High Court on Tuesday. Photo: Winson Wong
Dr Mak Wan-ling of DR Group at the High Court on Tuesday. Photo: Winson Wong

Wong said she had initially refused the treatment as she was against the idea of receiving injections.

But salespeople and beauty consultants from DR Group were constantly promoting the treatment, saying it would improve her overall health, so she eventually agreed and paid “tens of thousands of dollars”.

“I was quite healthy,” she said. “If I did not agree to do so, they would not let me go.”

In a recording played to the jury, Mak was heard conducting a brief inquiry into Wong’s medical history and explaining how she could benefit from the treatment that would involve extracting, multiplying and infusing cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cells into her body.

These cells are a type of white blood cells present in everyone’s body – at varying levels depending on one’s routines and habits – that help boost one’s immunity by seeking out and eating bad cells while on patrol, according to the doctor.

Family of woman who died during plastic surgery withdraws lawsuit against clinic

Mak was also heard explaining the side effects of the treatment, saying that about five in 100 might experience slight fever as a result of the stimulation of one’s immune system and the ensuing “battle” between the good and bad cells, but that this fever would go away in 48 hours and could be treated by medication such as paracetamol.

“As it is your own blood,” Mak said in the recording, “most people do not have side effects.”

“I believed them,” Wong testified, sitting on a wheelchair parked on the witness box.

Wong had started crying even before she began her testimony, while Mak watched from the dock, also in tears.

On October 3, Wong said, she felt “really unwell” less than 10 minutes into the infusion conducted after she arrived at the clinic at about 6.30pm.

“I was shivering,” she continued. “My internal organs were turning. I was unable to describe it. I cannot control it.”

The trial continues before Madam Justice Judianna Barnes at the High Court on Wednesday. Photo: Warton Li
The trial continues before Madam Justice Judianna Barnes at the High Court on Wednesday. Photo: Warton Li

She recalled crying out in pain, which prompted Mak to remove the drip line and hold her down with the help of nurses, before leaving to collect medication.

“The nurses were having a chat and I learned that someone had been sent to hospital already,” she said. “It seemed that there was another one in bed in the next room.”

But Wong did not go to hospital until the following day, as she recalled that Mak had given her an injection and some anti-inflammatory drugs before she returned home after midnight, saying that her symptoms were like that of a flu.

“It’s totally different,” Wong said.

By the time Mak accompanied her to the private St Teresa’s Hospital the next afternoon, Wong was feeling weak and frail. She was subsequently diagnosed with sepsis and shown a treatment plan that included amputation.

“I cried out, ‘No,’” she said tearfully with a raised voice.

But as she continued to experience cold and pain in her legs, they had to be amputated after she was moved to the intensive care unit at United Christian Hospital on the same day.

Doctors later installed prosthesis, with which she learned how to walk again during her three-month rehabilitation at Kowloon Hospital.

The trial continues before Madam Justice Judianna Barnes on Wednesday.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Hong Kong woman who lost legs and four fingers to sepsis after botched experimental therapy says she was not told of deadly side effects first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.