Stand firm on plans to regulate beauty industry
The further discussion stipulated in the government’s latest proposal should provide an opportunity to strike a better balance between risks and safeguards, before another incident compels it
The personal nature of medical beauty enhancement means the industry is unlikely to attract headlines and when it does it is likely to be for the wrong reasons. A case in point is our report of lawmakers’ annoyance at the government over what they see as a backdown from plans to regulate the beauty industry in the interests of public safety.
The plan to regulate was prompted in the first place by public disquiet over a tragic blunder at a beauty centre six years ago. One woman died and three others were seriously injured after experimental therapy involving the extraction and processing of their own blood before it was returned by transfusion. The subsequent trial in which a doctor and technician were convicted of manslaughter followed two more deaths where it was unclear whether the victims understood the risks of medical beauty treatment as opposed to conventional services. Calls for regulation of potentially dangerous products and services and training of practitioners has met with little opposition. An exception was the beauty industry, which said it would discriminate against beauticians and hurt the cosmetics industry.
The government formed a steering committee that proposed a law identifying procedures and devices with potential safety concerns, that certain procedures could be performed only by doctors or under their supervision, and that certain medical devices could be operated only in the presence of a doctor. Now, 18 months after circulating proposals along these lines, the government has presented lawmakers on the Legislative Council’s health services panel a watered-down version – pending further discussion – prompting them to accuse officials of bowing to pressure from the beauty industry.
The changes remove restrictions on the use of 20 types of medical devices for cosmetic treatments and the requirement for doctors to be present for or supervise the use of some devices. The industry may employ tens of thousands to serve a growing customer base. But that does not lessen the government’s responsibility to protect consumers from potentially dangerous products and services. The further discussion stipulated in the government’s latest proposal should provide an opportunity to strike a better balance between risks and safeguards, before another incident compels it.