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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Lines blurred between beauty services and medical procedures

Only legislation enabling regulation of the use of devices and procedures outside hospitals and the licensed medical regime will properly safeguard potentially vulnerable people

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 1:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 1:30am

The consumer watchdog’s call for regulation of high-risk beauty treatment involving medical procedures in private clinics highlights a worrying lack of effective action that could put more lives at risk. It is more than four years since the death of a woman and the illness of three others after transfusion therapy for ageing prompted the government to consider the issue. It is three years since it issued guidelines calling for performance of “high-risk” procedures such as Botox, dermal fillers and chemical peels to be confined to doctors. But a recent poll of 1,004 men and women by the Consumer Council found that nine out of 10 of the 200-odd who sought treatment requiring medical procedures were treated by beauticians instead of doctors.

This reflects the need for a specific law defining and governing medical beauty services. According to the council’s research, both clients and practitioners have only a vague idea of the distinction between beauty services and “medical beauty”. More than 80 per cent of users mistook medical beauty treatments for ordinary services and overlooked potential risks. This is unacceptable in a city with a widely respected health care system. The death in 2012 was not an isolated case. There have been two others in recent years, one involving transfusion and liposuction and another involving electrotherapy. It may be luck there were not more.

More legislation needed to regulate Hong Kong’s medical beauty service industry, says watchdog

The Federation of Beauty Industry has introduced a measure of (voluntary) self-regulation, and the chairwoman of the beauty and fitness professionals general union, Amy Hui Wai-fung, says the government has been too slow to regulate for a standardised qualification framework. A health department spokesman said it understood the risks and had set up a task force to look into it. However, only legislation enabling regulation of the use of devices and procedures outside hospitals and the licensed medical regime will properly safeguard potentially vulnerable people. There is a growing number of them in a world that puts a premium on appearance and slowing of ageing for work or social reasons. They deserve a greater sense of urgency.