Medical entrepreneurship poses new problems for the profession, which dislikes regulation, and for the government, which likes to focus regulation on the public hospital environment and otherwise keep the doctor-patient relationship at arms length, under professional self-regulation. As a result, according to one member of a Food and Health Bureau working group panel set up to investigate medical regulation, there is nothing to define what procedures a doctor can perform outside a hospital.
It is a loophole that led to one women dying and three others suffering serious injuries following blood-transfusion therapy at a private beauty clinic in 2012. This put the focus on the blurred lines between health, beauty and medical treatments after years of warnings from doctors.
Now, the Post has learned, doctors are to be banned from carrying out high-risk medical procedures in beauty salons or other private premises without the approval of the Department of Health. New rules to be put forward by the working group will close a loophole allowing operations - even those involving the administration of a general anaesthetic - to be carried out anywhere.
This is belated recognition that beauty and ageing treatments in particular have gained wide acceptance, sustained by a flow of new technologies and treatments. The public deserves more protection than a business certificate. Health minister Ko Wing-man has promised that guidelines under the Medical Registration Ordinance will permit only doctors to carry out high-risk procedures such as chemical peels or injecting Botox or dermal fillers.
The guidelines also should cover licensing, advertising, promotion and the involvement of doctors in company structures. It is therefore good that the bureau has three other working group panels looking at beauty treatment, premises for advanced therapies and rules for private hospitals.