Hong Kong lawmakers need to act on beauty industry
Tragic incidents underline the need for stronger regulation of the use of certain devices and procedures outside hospitals and the licensed medical sector
Yet another serious medical incident has occurred in a beauty parlour, while Hong Kong follows the manslaughter trial of two doctors and a technician over the death of a woman from blood poisoning after being treated at a Causeway Bay centre. Five years after that tragedy, one of three deaths in recent years, the latest incident at a Tsim Sha Tsui centre, in which a woman lost consciousness after being given an injection, is a reminder that Hong Kong is still waiting for effective regulation of the blurred intersection of health, beauty and medical treatment.
It also reinforces the argument that, in a society that puts a premium on appearance and slowing of ageing, only stronger regulation of the use of medical devices and procedures outside hospitals and the licensed medical sector will properly safeguard beauty clients. In a court sequel to the latest incident, prosecutors allege two women carried out a procedure they were not registered to perform. Hopefully, now that the Food and Health Bureau has responded to proposals from the Legislative Council’s health services panel, a consumer protection regime that comprehensively covers the latest therapies, devices and practices will not be long in coming.
The death of the woman five years ago after transfusion therapy prompted the government to issue guidelines calling for “high risk” procedures such as Botox, dermal fillers and chemical peels to be administered by doctors. Alarmingly, a recent poll by the Consumer Council found that beauticians, not doctors, still treated most clients when services required medical procedures. The council’s research indicated practitioners and clients often had only a vague idea of the distinction between beauty services and “medical beauty”.
In a Legco paper, the bureau says the beauty industry considers it should delineate “medical devices” and “beauty devices” and set less stringent requirements for the latter. But the bureau found it impracticable and that may be for the best. The simpler the definitions and regulations, the more likely they are to protect clients unambiguously. The aim now should be to submit legislation to lawmakers before any more tragic or serious incidents occur.