Beauticians in Hong Kong to be banned from performing some cosmetic treatments

Proposed guidelines follow death of woman after blood transfusion therapy and will allow only doctors to perform some procedures

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 8:43am

Beauticians will soon be banned from performing a list of cosmetic treatment classified as high-risk medical procedures, the health minister has said.

In the government’s proposal for a new guideline under the Medical Registration Ordinance, only doctors would be allowed to perform such procedures, including injecting Botox and dermal fillers and conducting chemical peels, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man announced on Friday.

Beauticians found doing so would be violating the ordinance.

It is difficult to give a clear definition on whether a cosmetic treatment is a medical procedure ... But this guideline gives both the prosecutor and the public a clearer idea.
Health chief Dr Ko Wing-man

The move comes more than a year after the DR beauty centre scandal, in which a woman died and three fell seriously ill after receiving blood transfusion therapy at a salon chain.

Ko believed the proposed guideline would be sufficient to prosecute similar cases in future.

“It is difficult to give a clear definition on whether a cosmetic treatment is a medical procedure [because] there is no comprehensive list [to refer to],” he said, after a meeting with a steering committee that was reviewing the regulation of private health-care facilities.

“But this guideline should be helpful for prosecution in future as it gives both the prosecutor and the public a clearer idea.”

The health minister said the committee had accepted a working group’s suggestion to define different types of beauty treatment. The proposed guidelines would take effect in a few months, after they were submitted and accepted by a Legislative Council panel, he said.

Examples of beauty treatment classified as high-risk procedures included injections, chemical exfoliation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and dental bleaching. Under the guideline, they should be performed only by registered medical practitioners.

But other cosmetic procedures, like those involving external applications of energy, such as laser, radio frequency, infrared light and ultrasound for lipolysis, would not be covered, Ko said.

“A consensus could not be reached on this category of procedures,” he said, adding that the committee had instead suggested that this area of treatment come under an upcoming legislation proposal to regulate medical devices, which would be put to the Legco by early next year.

But Federation of Beauty Industry chairman Nelson Yip Sai-hung said the government should not include laser treatment under the planned law as this meant such treatment were deemed as medical procedures.

Medical Association president Tse Hung-hing was disappointed that the government was “using excuses” to defend its failure to clearly differentiate between beauty treatment and medical procedures.

But steering committee member Professor Raymond Liang Hin-suen, who is also Academy of Medicine president, said the proposed law was a baby step forward. “The guideline is just a beginning,” he said. “We … will handle the rest step by step.”

Both Liang and Ko stressed all decisions were made bearing patient safety as top priority.

Body tattooing and piercing were also exempted from the guideline, although Ko said practitioners should be well trained and that special care was needed for procedures done near the eyes and on the tongue.