One woman died and three were critically ill after paying HK$50,000 in October 2012 for "anti-cancer" blood transfusion therapy at a beauty centre. In the procedure, blood is drawn from the patient, then processed to harvest the "cytokine-induced killer cells", or CIK, found in the white blood cells. The CIK cells are multiplied in a culture solution and injected into the patient along with their own blood after two weeks. The founder of the DR beauty company that carried out the treatment, Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing, has admitted there was no evidence the treatment worked.
Blood therapy death at beauty centre prompts legal review
The government set up a committee on Thursday to tighten the supervision of high-risk beauty treatments, following the death of a woman who was given a blood transfusion.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said on Thursday the committee’s main task would be to separate high-risk beauty treatments from ordinary cosmetic procedures, and to put the former under regulatory controls in the wake of the medical blunder.
Also on Thursday, police ramped up their investigation of the woman’s death. Restaurant boss Chan Yuen-lam, 46, died on Wednesday, a week after receiving a transfusion at the DR beauty centre in Causeway Bay last week.
The health chief told a press conference: “It will study ways to enhance the supervision of agents and organisations which offer, claim to offer, or perform high-risks medical treatments for both therapeutic and non-therapeutic purposes.”
A 20-member steering committee will conduct the one-year review, with Ko as its chairman. Four members are government officials and others include doctors, academics and representatives of patient groups.
The committee would brief the Legislative Council on its working plan next month, he said. Its proposals for change would then be put forward for a public consultation.
Earlier on Thursday, Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said the force was ramping up their investigation of Chan’s death to see if a criminal charge of manslaughter is warranted.
“The police will now look into whether anyone in the case could possibly have committed manslaughter due to gross negligence,” he said.
This is an escalation of the police role, after they were initially assigned to investigate the case jointly with the Department of Health.
“Now someone has died, perhaps because of receiving the treatment,” Tsang said. “Instead of assisting the Department of Health in its investigation, the police will now look at the case from a criminal angle.”
The victim, restaurant boss Chan Yuen-lam, 46, died at Ruttonjee Hospital on Wednesday due to multiple organ failure. She was one of four women who recently fell ill after paying HK$50,000 for the “anti-cancer” procedure offered by the DR chain of beauty centres.
The police will investigate whether any party in the case – salon managers, medical workers performing the treatment and the staff of labouratories handling the blood – should be held responsible.
Chan contracted a rare super-bug, Mycobacterium abscessus, and suffered septic shock after having the treatment at the DR centre in Causeway Bay last week. The DR chain issued a statement expressing its regret and promising to co-operate with the Department of Health inquiry.
The three other women remained in hospital on Thursday, one in critical condition, one serious and one in stable condition.