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Vietnam health official apologizes for death involving cosmetic surgeon

A health official has apologized for an incident involving a doctor who threw the body of a customer who died at his unlicensed cosmetic surgery clinic into a river in Hanoi.

Deputy health minister Nguyen Thi Xuyen sent her condolences to the family of Le Thi Thanh Huyen, 39, and apologized for the incident at a press conference Tuesday evening.

Xuyen also called on police and the health ministry to investigate the cause of Huyen's death.

Huyen allegedly died after undergoing a breast enlargement surgery at the Cat Tuong beauty clinic, run by Dr Nguyen Manh Tuong of the state-owned Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, last Saturday (October 19).

Tuong, 40, was arrested Tuesday and confessed to police that he had personally performed the surgery on Huyen Saturday at noon.

He said he extracted fat from the woman's belly and then pumped it into her breasts.

The surgery finished at 4 p.m. that day, but Huyen developed convulsions and foamed at the mouth 30 minutes later.

At around 5:40 p.m., Huyen turned purple, with her pulse unable to be felt and her blood pressure unable to be measured.

Tuong said he gave her anti-shock injections and put her on a breathing machine but she could not breathe again.

Tuong allegedly asked his employees to hide some medical files, drugs and equipment involved while he himself transported Huyen's body in his car to a river.

Before leaving, he told his employees that he would drive Huyen to a hospital for "emergency treatment."

He also asked Dao Duy Khanh, 17, a security guard for his clinic, to leave Huyen's motorbike and other belongings at a spot.

Khanh then went with Tuong in the car heading for Thanh Tri Bridge, from where Tuong and Khanh threw the dead body into the Hong (Red) River.

Khanh later told the police he did not mean to connive with Tuong in covering up the death of Huyen but Tuong promised to double his salary and he accepted.

Previously, Nguyen Huu Huy, Huyen's husband, could not reach her via mobile phone since 11 a.m. last Saturday. He waited until midnight when he received a phone call from a stranger saying Huyen's motorbike as well as her papers and personal belongings were found in Sai Dong Ward, Long Bien District.

Huy then reported to local police that Huyen was missing.

On Tuesday morning, he found a receipt dated October 18 from the Cat Tuong beauty clinic in Huyen's clothes.

Based on the tip, police summoned doctors and employees from the clinic for questioning.

The employees then confessed that Huyen had died at the Cat Tuong clinic. Police searched the clinic and arrested Tuong while he was working at Bach Mai Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

Huyen's body had not been recovered as of press time.

Police said they are still investigating.

According to the Hanoi Health Department, the Cat Tuong beauty clinic was not licensed as a cosmetic surgery facility, although it was granted a business license.

Authorities at Bach Mai Hospital, where Tuong had worked for more than five years, said they did not know Tuong ran a private clinic.

The Cat Tuong beauty clinic had 20 employees and was run by Tuong, its founder, and his wife, who is also a doctor at the state-owned E Hospital.

Tuong specializes in traumatology and orthopedics.

According to an official from the Ho Chi Minh City Cosmetic Surgery Association, Vietnam does not allow the technique of using fat extracted from one's body to pump up breasts for enlargement.