Law stipulating doctors' role in beauty procedures sought

Beauty salons let unqualified people perform risky procedures to save on cost, medics say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 October, 2012, 3:12am

Doctors and a beauty industry leader have called for the passing of a law that stipulates the procedures that only a doctor may perform.

There are concerns that beauty salons are cutting costs by allowing unqualified people to perform invasive procedures, including Botox injections. Such fears were compounded when three women fell seriously ill this week after plasma infusions at beauty salons. A fourth was admitted to hospital yesterday.

It is understood in the medical profession that any bodily invasive procedure, such as an injection or laser treatment, must be performed by a licensed doctor or under the authority of one, but there is no law clearly stating this.

Amy Hui Wai-fung, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Beauty and Fitness Professionals General Union, said Botox patients would often receive the initial injections from a private doctor.

If nothing went wrong the doctor would authorise a nurse to give the rest of the injections, thus cutting the price. Medical Association president Dr Gabriel Choi Kin called this a dangerous precedent. "Botox is a toxin and is dangerous," he said. "It can distort the face if injected in the wrong part."

The danger of poorly administered treatments was highlighted this week when three women were admitted to hospital in critical condition. They had undergone a cosmetic platelet-rich plasma treatment, which involved an intravenous infusion to boost their immune systems. A fourth woman is stable in hospital.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said that, in his professional assessment, treatment involving a blood transfusion counted as a "medical practice".

Choi said the Medical Association had been fighting for a law that could better protect consumers seeking cosmetic treatments. He cited an example from 2006 when 64 local women received PAAG injections for bigger breasts, which resulted in severe adverse reactions, including six women losing a breast.

Choi said he pressed Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, health minister at the time, to introduce a law that would subject all medical devices and injectable substances to regulation, with the aim of targeting businesses administering stem cell treatments in particular, but nothing was done.

"The PAAG injection is still readily available," he said. "We haven't done anything since and look what has happened now."