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.
Private hospitals left to sort out problems caused by beauty clinics
More people are seeking help for botched treatments, says association
Private hospitals are seeing more and more patients seeking help after visiting beauty clinics like DR, the president of the Association of Cosmetic Surgery said yesterday.
Walter King Wing-keung said some patients had infections after treatments in beauty salons or mainland and overseas clinics.
An infection following an "anti-cancer" blood transfusion recommended by a DR clinic is being blamed for leaving one woman dead this week from septic shock. She and three other women received the same treatment.
The three other women remained in hospital last night.
King said other patients seen by private hospitals needed further surgery to correct mistakes.
As the health minister announced a review of the regulations governing the beauty industry, King outlined rules he wants to see introduced to guarantee customers' safety.
They include setting up an advisory body to oversee the beauty sector and licensing of the array of devices used in treatments. He also wants a ban on high-risk medical procedures.
King said beauty clinics offering medical treatments should be classified as medical centres and subject to those regulations.
He also wants a ban on exaggerated and unscientific advertising.
DR founder Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing has admitted there is no evidence the HK$50,000 "anti-cancer" treatment carried out on the four women - one of whom is his sister - actually works.
"Beauty centres in Hong Kong have long been operating haphazardly and without supervision," King said.
The aesthetics industry had a very complicated relationship with the doctors they employed, creating a grey area that allowed companies to escape liability once a therapy went wrong.
"For many of them, making money is the top priority, which is against the professional morals of medical practitioners," he added.
Doctor Chan Wai-man, of the Surgical Laser Association, said the government should refer to Singapore's regulations on the beauty industry.
It classes therapies according to their health risk, and high-risk treatments can only be performed by specialists.
In Singapore, stem cell treatment - similar to DR's "anti-cancer" transfusions - are classified as trial medical therapies that should not be on the market. Any doctor wanting to carry them out has to seek approval.
"But in Hong Kong there are no regulations to restrict these therapies because the government fears discouraging development of industry," Chan said.
"Even laser machines used for eye surgery or skin treatment can be openly brought by the public to use in their own home."