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.
Death prompts review of beauty business
Panel to look at safety of beauty business, while police mull manslaughter charge
Emily Tsang and Stuart Lau
A committee has been set up to review the rules governing the beauty business in the wake of blunders that left one woman dead and three in hospital.
This came as police launched a criminal investigation into possible manslaughter charges against people in the DR beauty centre involved in administering "health therapy" blood transfusions that caused the victims to suffer septic shock.
Chan Yuen-lam, 46, died on Tuesday morning, while three remained in hospital: one in critical condition, one serious and one stable. All four contracted the rare and deadly superbug Mycobacterium abscessus.
Announcing the 20-member steering committee that he will chair, health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said its purpose was to "regulate and guarantee the safety and quality of service in the private market by putting forward recommendations on the regulatory approach".
He said it would study ways to improve supervision of agents and organisations that offer such treatments.
The minister said the committee would brief the Legislative Council on its working plan next month and he expected the review to be complete within a year. Its proposals for change would then be put forward for a public consultation. Ko said there was a possibility of changing medical laws to cover the beauty industry.
"The government will also review the scope of regulation ... and study whether to place any premises which conduct high-risk medical treatment under regulatory control."
Two committee members, Medical Association president Dr Tse Hung-hing and Consumer Council chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing, both said the government should regulate all medical-related or invasive treatments to guarantee safety. Tse added that exaggerated or unscientific advertising from the beauty industry should be banned or subject to monitoring.
But Dr Ying Shun-yuen of the Society of Plastic and Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons said the committee could not provide quick solutions to the pressing problems involved in the industry, which included risky treatment performed by unqualified staff.
The Federation of Beauty Industry complained that its representatives had not been invited to join the committee.
Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said the investigation into Chan's death was being stepped up to see if a manslaughter charge was warranted.
"There are several targets under investigation, including the beauty company itself, medical staff responsible for the treatments, as well as the laboratory which handled the blood."
The police will investigate whether any party in the case - salon managers, medical workers performing the treatment and lab staff handling the blood - had been grossly negligent.