Updated laser code 'too narrow'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2007, 12:00am

Stronger guidelines needed for beauty clinic treatments, say critics

An updated code of practice regarding the use of lasers in health care was released yesterday, but critics said further regulation of their use in cosmetics clinics was also urgently needed.

All registered operators of medical lasers are advised to follow the code on health-care lasers published by the Medical Association and the Surgical Laser Association.

It is not legally binding.

The code's editor-in-chief, Chow Pak-chin, said new laws regulating the use of lasers by non-medical staff were needed.

'We want to tell the government that even registered medical staff who have already undergone formal training need to be regulated by a code of practice and there is an urgent need for it to draw up legislation to regulate those non-medical practitioners at beauty salons,' Dr Chow said. The first edition of the code, published in 1994, had only 11 chapters. The new code has added chapters on physiotherapy, cardiology, anaesthesiology, plastic surgery, orthopaedics and traumatology.

'Laser use is involved in many disciplines. It is necessary to update the code to include a wider scope that covers protection against known hazards,' Dr Chow said. 'Medical technology is rapidly advancing and the code may have to be revised from time to time.'

There is no law to regulate laser operators at beauty salons, where most operators only receive training from equipment manufacturers.

Most complaints regarding the use of lasers concerned beauty salons and their staff, Consumer Council chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing said.

'Most complaints are about skin treatment for removing moles or freckles with laser machines at beauty salons. Some are about body hair removal,' she said.

The council received 60 complaints related to laser operations last year, and 36 complaints in the first six months of this year.

Zhong Nanshan, president of the Chinese Medical Association, said the problem was similar on the mainland. 'Though the code of practice is not mandatory, it can be used as evidence if victims want to seek compensation by taking the matter to court. The code can be used to measure safety standards of a beauty salon to find out if there is any malpractice,' he said.

Nelson Ip Sai-hung, chairman of the Federation of Beauty Industry, said the beauty industry welcomed the updated code and the federation would encourage members to follow it even though most were not medically trained.

'Our federation will strongly advise the industry to take the code at least for reference,' he said. 'It is always better to have some safety guidelines than having none. Our federation will certainly study the code and see if it is feasible for us to adopt, if not the entire code, then at least some of the terms.'

The federation is also drafting a safety guide that is expected to be completed within a year.

Louis Shih Tai-cho, who runs a skin clinic in Central that offers laser operations, said introducing a non-binding code was not enough. He urged the government to draft legislation regulating the use of laser equipment at beauty salons.

'A cosmetic operation is just the same as a medical procedure in this case. If medical procedures are regulated by law then cosmetic operations should be regulated, too,' he said.

'A laser machine is a medical device.'