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HK govt mulls 'medical beauty' ban

Updated: 2012-10-15 14:21
By Ming Yeung ( China Daily HK Edition)

There will no longer be any grey area in the distinction between "beauty" and "medical" treatment, vowed Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man on Friday.

Speaking on a Commercial Radio program, Ko emphasized the importance of clarifying the meaning of "medical procedures" and said the existing term "medical beauty" should be abolished.

"After stating clearly what medical procedures mean, I don't think, in the future, medical beauty will still exist. Medical is medical; beauty is beauty," Ko said firmly. "If (the beauty salon) works on beauty treatments only, it won't be affected."

"If any medical treatment is involved, it should be done in hospitals or clinics by certified doctors. By then, doctors, as well as the venues and facilities will be regulated," he added.

The government vowed to clamp down on the beauty industry in the wake of medical blunders that left one woman dead and three in hospital.

Chan Yuen-lam, 46, died from septic shock on Wednesday morning. Of the three other hospitalised women, one is in critical condition. All four contracted the rare and deadly superbug Mycobacterium abscessus after undergoing a blood-processing procedure at the same DR treatment centre in Causeway Bay.

The company promoted the HK$50,000 treatment as a "health therapy", but its founder previously told the media that there was no evidence it has any benefits.

Walter King Wing-keung, president of the Hong Kong Association of Cosmetic Surgery, said the government is moving in "the right direction", to define the differences between medical and beauty treatments as he believes, both industries are willing to provide the safest services to their customers. The clearer definition, King added, can obstruct unscrupulous beauty agents who advertise through misleading statements or make unfounded claims about results. Agents' actions are confusing customers' judgment to choose the services that suit them best. The new regulations won't deter the development of the beauty industry in Hong Kong, as it will look for safer ways to expand their businesses, King noted.

Critics charged that it will take too long for the 20-member steering committee, chaired by Ko himself, to review the regulatory regime for private healthcare facilities. They added, the committee could not provide quick solutions to pressing problems, including risky treatment performed by unqualified staff. Ko said the process of establishing new regulations is time-consuming and complex. At the same time, all stakeholders in the beauty business should be consulted to figure out the way forward once medical treatment is deemed illegal at private beauty salons.

In the meantime, the committee can study experiences of other countries to shorten the time it needs, Ko added.

King said all members in the steering committee are respected heavyweights of the medical sector, and he is sure they will listen to voices of the beauty industry during the process of formulating new laws.

Ko defended the existing Code of Professional Conduct of the Medical Council of Hong Kong, claiming it is powerful enough to supervise whether doctors follow proper medical procedures, but he admitted that the council has difficulty collecting evidence when there is a complaint.

Ko advised the public to be cautious about new technologies and pledged that the government will enhance publicity on potential hazards of these medical beauty treatments.

A relative of one of the patients, surnamed Leung, said the patient had not been told of the treatment dangers and he lambasted the beauty salon "irresponsible" and he would seek compensation from them.