Materia Medica Malaysiana

October 31, 2004


Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 1:56 pm

Veteran Malaysian doctor spills the beans on illegal beauty treatments

SHE’D had her share of praise and attention lavished on her.

Her friends called her stunning, beautiful, attractive.

And they were bewildered when Malaysia Airlines stewardess Jannie Lew Fong Khun died suddenly three weeks ago outside a Kuala Lumpur clinic – where she had gone for a nose job earlier.

The 35-year-old had gone back for a post-surgery checkup when she collapsed.

A check with the Health Ministry’s online records showed her doctor is a ear, nose, throat specialist who is not licensed to perform plastic surgery.

She’s among a fast-growing number of Malaysians opting to go under the knife.

Dr V Surendranathan, a plastic surgeon for 30 years, said: ‘In the last 10 years, demand has increased 10 times (in Malaysia). About 100 new patients come to see me every month for consultation and surgery.’

The most common requests are for double eyelids, higher or sharper noses, and bigger breasts.

Problem is, there are some people, including doctors hungry for a quick buck, who are not licensed by the Health Ministry and perform cosmetic surgery illegally.

Take the example of beauticians who employ nurses from Taiwan and perform procedures like double-eyelid surgeries.

Dr Surendranathan said: ‘Some beauty centres owned by ‘rich people’ bring in nurses from Taiwan who pass off as plastic surgeons.

‘But you must ask yourself: Why would doctors come all the way from Taiwan when they can earn more money there?

‘These nurses learnt how to do plastic surgery from watching their doctors back home.’

Dr Surendranathan was the former president of the Malaysian Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Cranio Maxillo Facial Surgeons (Mapacs).


He added: ‘There are professional beauticians who don’t cross the line to perform cosmetic surgery. But there’s another group that has crossed the line.’

He believes there are no organisations or syndicates involved.

Instead, unethical beauticians and doctors who say they are plastic surgeons tend to work on their own.

Dr R Angamuthu, current president of Mapacs, which represent 35 plastic surgeons, say they need to be gazetted by the Health Ministry.

There are 38 plastic surgeons in Malaysia, but it is not compulsory for a surgeon to be a Mapacs member.

Upon graduation, a doctor needs at least another six years of study and practice before he can be a plastic surgeon, said Dr Surendranathan, who is based in Petaling Jaya.

A nose implant costs about RM3,500 ($1,540) while a breast-enhancement surgery can cost RM11,000.

Ms Lew reportedly paid RM33,000 for a nose job before her death.

But some Malaysians who don’t want to fork out more for a qualified surgeon end up paying dearly instead.

Dr Surendranathan saw a woman in her early 30s whose abdomen was scarred by laser treatment two years ago.

She went to a beautician to remove stretch marks on her tummy after she gave birth.

He recalled: ‘She came to me for help, but I told her I couldn’t do anything as the burns had already changed the colour of her skin.

‘She had no choice but to live with the scars. Now, she can’t wear clothes that show her belly button.’

Miss Christine Choy, a cosmetic surgery consultant with Murall Beauty House at Petaling Jaya, has seen about 10 cases of botched jobs by beauticians since April alone.

Miss Choy, 29, has five years’ experience in the cosmetic surgery industry, although she is not a plastic surgeon.

Her 20-year-old company started the consultancy service this year, advising customers on the risks of plastic surgery.

Three plastic surgeons conduct at least 30 operations a month, or one operation a day.


The bulk of her customers are female professionals, including lawyers and businesswomen, aged between 28 and 45.

But some people still go to beauticians for cosmetic surgery because ‘trust’ is developed between them and their beauticians over a period of time, said Miss Choy.

But they end up suffering for their misplaced trust.

One of her clients is so terrified of surgery that even after her nose swelled to twice its original size, she’s still considering whether to go for corrective surgery.

Miss Choy said: ‘Her nose-head is now twice its normal size and the region around the nose is blue-black.


‘She was in pain for a month.

‘As she had lost all confidence in cosmetic surgery, she’s still deciding if she wants to go for surgery to correct the problem.’

The woman, a Chinese Malaysian in her early 30s, went to a beautician in Singapore for a nose job six years ago.

In one year, the beautician injected her nose with liquid silicone four times.

She wanted the bridge of her nose to be straighter and sharper.

Two years later, her nose-head started to droop and swell like Pinocchio’s, Miss Choy said.

She went back to the beautician, who removed only 20 per cent of the silicone.

The beautician even spilled the liquid silicone during the procedure.

Desperate, she went to see Miss Choy two months ago for advice.

Miss Choy said the woman should have gone to a plastic surgeon in the first place, as the surgeon would have surgically sharpened her nose bone instead of injecting her with silicone.

But operations done by plastic surgeons are not without risks too, as one out of 10,000 procedures fail, said Miss Choy.

‘She had breast job done before nose job’

MISS Jannie Lew Fong Khun had gone to the Kuala Lumpur clinic on Oct 9 for a check-up, five days after a nose job.

Bystanders brought her back to the clinic after she collapsed on the first storey of the building at Jalan Raja Laut.

The clinic is on the second storey.

But it’s not clear if the death of Ms Lew, who had worked as a flight stewardess for 14 years, was connected to the recent plastic surgery on her nose – or perhaps to other plastic surgery.

A source told The New Paper: ‘The medical examination on her body found puncture marks on both her breasts.

‘Before she came to this clinic, she’d had plastic surgery on her breasts by a beautician.’

As the case is still under police investigation, the source did not want to disclose the identity of the beautician.

Also, the source did not reveal if the beautician is in Malaysia, or when the alleged breast surgery took place.


But a police spokesman said Ms Lew had not had any other plastic surgery before she visited the doctor at Jalan Raja Laut.

He confirmed the 53-year-old doctor is helping police in investigations, but he couldn’t confirm if there are puncture marks on Ms Lew’s breasts.

The case has been classified as sudden death, and Ms Lew’s family is thinking of getting legal advice.

Two days after Ms Lew’s death, the Health Ministry raided the clinic and found eight types of unregistered drugs, The Malay Mail reported.

If found guilty of possessing unregistered drugs, the doctor can be jailed up to three years and fined RM25,000.

When The New Paper visited the clinic two weeks ago, the doctor and his staff were not there.

A tall, well-built man standing outside the clinic said he was ‘helping out’ at the clinic while the doctor and his staff were with the police.

Miss Lew left behind a 7-year-old son.

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