Tighter rules on cosmetic surgery urged
Local medical associations are urging the government to tighten regulation of cosmetic surgery amid an increase in complaints about surgical laser and injection therapy.
Dr Chan Wai-man, president of the Hong Kong Surgical Laser Association, said: 'The current regulation is so lax ... that anyone can buy, operate and repair a laser machine. People are not protected by the law if something happens.'
Chan said that a technician, in his 30s, lost 90 per cent of the sight in his left eye when he was fixing a laser machine about three to four years ago. His retina was damaged by the laser as he was not provided with protective wear at work.
Another case involved a 40-year-old housewife who was scarred on her eyebrow after receiving laser treatment at a beauty parlour to remove an eyebrow tattoo.
Quoting figures from the Consumer Council, the Hong Kong Association of Cosmetic Surgery said there were 48 complaints about cosmetic surgery in the first four months of this year, nearly 40 per cent of the full-year figures in 2008 and last year.
More than half of the complaints were about laser treatments, and about a quarter were related to injection therapy - such as the injection of Botox and placenta extract - to remove wrinkles or to improve the skin's appearance.
The cosmetic surgery association's president, Dr Walter King Wing-keung, said injection therapy had become more prevalent in Hong Kong, with many beauty parlours offering such services. However, he said, some beauty parlours employed only nurses or unqualified individuals to perform the treatment.
'Complaints are on the rise and have to be noted,' King said. 'There is increased risk if the treatment is carried out by people who have not had specialised training.'
He said he was also aware of the growing popularity of 'Botox parties' - where a group of people gather for Botox injections and food and drink - as well as cosmetic surgery tours to Japan and South Korea.
King said that one middle-aged woman had swollen eye bags after travelling overseas for surgery a year ago. She was seeking compensation and needed to undergo surgery in Hong Kong to fix the problem, he said. Each remedial operation cost more than HK$10,000.
About five to 10 people had to receive remedial treatment in Hong Kong after going on such overseas tours, he said. The figure does not include those have problems after surgery on the mainland.
The association urged the government to regulate service providers and practitioners as well as monitor service quality. It also urged the public to check the various medical associations' websites for a list of specialists trained to perform cosmetic surgery.
Teresa Tsoi, president of the Association of Professional Aestheticians International, said the industry did not tolerate malpractice and believed only a minority of beauticians were unqualified.
She said aestheticians were professional and self-disciplined and they needed to obtain international licences which authorised them to use surgical laser machines. Beauty parlours were not allowed to perform high-risk laser surgery, she added.
Number of complaints about cosmetic surgery received by the Consumer Council
Other treatments (e.g. nose surgery, breast augmentation): 18
Injection therapy (e.g. injecting Botox, placenta extract): 15
Laser treatment: 88
Other treatments (e.g. nose surgery, breast augmentation): 21
Injection therapy (e.g. injecting Botox, placenta extract): 16
Laser treatment: 86
Other treatments (e.g. nose surgery, breast augmentation): 11
Injection therapy (e.g. injecting Botox, placenta extract): 11
Laser treatment: 26
* Jan-Apr only
SOURCE: HONG KONG SURGICAL LASER ASSOCIATION, HONG KONG ASSOCIATION OF COSMETIC SURGERY