Deadly Breast Implant Leads To Closure Of Clinic

A cosmetic surgery clinic in Phnom Penh was shuttered on Monday pending an investigation into a breast implant surgery that resulted in a 36-year-old woman’s death, according to officials.

Ros Sokny, a television vendor from Kratie province, had seen an advertisement for breast enhancement surgery at De Beaute Clinic in Russei Keo district on Facebook “a long time ago” and had been planning her own surgery since, said her husband, Phai Veasna, 36, on Monday.

A woman walks past De Beaute Clinic in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A woman walks past De Beaute Clinic in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

On Thursday, she went in for her long-awaited surgery, paying the clinic $3,000 for the procedure, he said. On Saturday, as she was released, Mr. Veasna was told to take his wife to a hospital for further treatment.

“The doctor knew that my wife’s condition had become more serious,” he said. “The doctor told me to go somewhere else for treatment, because he didn’t have the equipment to treat her.”

One of the surgeons who had performed her breast enhancement—whose name he could not recall—referred the patient to the nearby ICU Clinic, also a private practice, Mr. Veasna said.

By 4:15 a.m. the next morning, his wife had died, leaving behind four children.

Norng Sovannaroth, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s doctor, said the ICU Clinic had informed him that Ros Sokny had died of septic shock, which causes fluctuations in organ functions.

On Monday morning, Mr. Veasna filed a complaint with commune police “to find justice for my family,” he said.

By the afternoon, deputy municipal court prosecutor Srey Makny ordered the temporary closure of the De Beaute Clinic “due to its lack of technical efficiency,” said court spokesman Y Rin.

The clinic could reopen if police investigations found it had acted according to proper procedures, he said, adding that he did not know if the clinic’s owner, Phe Thong, or employees would be prosecuted.

Dr. Thong could not be reached for comment.

According to the license given to the clinic in March last year by the Health Ministry, the center was registered simply as a “private clinic.”

Sok Kanha, deputy director of the ministry’s planning and health information department, said Cambodia does not have “a law or regulation” to provide licenses specifically for cosmetic surgery.

“As far as I know, we don’t provide licenses for plastic surgery clinics. Only hospitals, polyclinics and private clinics,” she said before directing further questions to the ministry’s hospital department.

Department officials could not be reached.

Thida Khus, a prominent women’s rights advocate, said the lack of regulation allowed cosmetic surgery clinics “popping up everywhere in the country” to function under general licenses while practicing specialty procedures without constraint.

“People pay less attention because it’s just a superficial surgery,” she said, citing breast enhancement, botox injections and eye lifts as common procedures available in Cambodia.

“Before, I saw only about two clinics 15 years ago. Right now, I cannot count because there are so many of them,” she said. “And there’s no regulation.”

The oversight of how surgeons are trained is poor at best, she added.

“There is no such thing as certified training because there is no regulation on that. So if you can read Khmer, you can drive around and see places offering training” in a variety of beauty enhancement practices, Ms. Khus said.

“People learn how to do this, and then they go out and try to test it out.”

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