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'No pain, no gain'?
Medi-spas mistakes prompt task force
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With each pulse of a laser pressed above her lip, Patricia Nee felt more
pain. Lying on a cot at the Hair Cafe in Holbrook, she begged the
technician to stop the hair removal procedure.
"No pain, no gain," the tech replied, according to Nee's lawsuit filed in
March against salon owners Moet, Inc. A day of beauty became a trip
to Massachusetts General Hospital's burn unit. Nee says she suffered
second-degree burns and scars from her April 13, 2004, laser
Lawyer Michael Forestra represents Angela McCoy of Boston, who says
she suffered rows of circular scars on her face after laser treatment at
A&A Skin Care Associates in Newton. "She walked in, paid $50, and
they started zapping," he said. "Either the technician or the machine
McCoy is suing A&A Skin Care. The medi-spa's owner won't comment
on the lawsuit.
While thousands of happy customers leave Massachusetts medi-spas with smoother skin and fewer wrinkles, others are getting burned. The
lucrative industry operates under fewer regulations than the
neighborhood ice cream stand.
"A lot of consumers see a laser hair center at the mall and think it
must be safe or the government wouldn't let it be there. I have bad
news for them. That isn't the case right now," said Nancy Achin
Audesse, executive director of the state Board of Registration in
But the Botox party could soon be over.
Audesse heads a Medical Spa Task Force, part of the Massachusetts
Board of Registration in Medicine, now drawing up regulations for
exactly who can wield lasers or inject wrinkle fillers and where they can
do it. Under current rules, a doctor can farm out the work to staff and
does not have to be in the building while procedures are done. Graphic images of beauty procedures gone wrong have distressed task
force members. There's the 52-year-old Florida woman whose back is now striped with scars because a technician failed to realize the
woman's tanned skin would draw more heat from the pigment-seeking laser.
The owner of the Hair Cafe said she bought the business in 2005 and
does not use lasers. The previous owner could not be located. Task force member Winifred Nee Tobin said she is concerned about
skin-altering treatments conducted without a medical professional
present. Under current state rules, a doctor can sign on as a medi-spa's medical director and never visit again.
"There can be unscrupulous people and if they can provide their
medical licensure and not be there, it's kind of like a no-show job," Nee Tobin said.
At least one death has been linked to a medi-spa. In Raleigh, N.C., college student Shiri Berg, 22, covered her body with a numbing gel
ordered by technicians as preparation for laser hair removal. The gel is
only safe in small doses. Berg overdosed, lapsed into a coma and died
on Dec. 28, 2004. The state suspended the spa's medical director's
license for six months.
"Most of the medical spas are very safe but a few bad apples ruin the
whole pie. We need better regulations and better rules," Hannelore
Leavey, executive director of the International Spa Association based
in New Jersey, said.
But the industry group contends Florida legislators went too far last
year when they limited medi-spa ownership to only plastic surgeons
and dermatologists. The new law also says those specialists can run
just one satellite spa outside their main office. In Massachusetts, a doctor can act as medical director for an unlimited
chain of medi-spas and doesn't have to evaluate a client before
Leavey predicted the industry eventually will find its way out of the
mall and back into the doctor's office. Doctors are becoming disenchanted with the high costs of fresh linens, massage therapists,
granite waterfalls and other staples of the spa experience, she said.
"They say this isn't making me any money. I'm better off doing this
back in my office and getting $450 per injection," Leavey said.
The Task Force plans to have regulations available for public comment
in May before submitting a final report to the Legislature.
KnowNOW: Medi-spa laws in several states
Massachusetts: Doctors can delegate procedures to staff and do not have to be present. Licensed medical personnel must do injections.
New Hampshire: Doctors can delegate procedures to staff and do not
have to be present.
Rhode Island: Doctor must evaluate client before procedures but may
delegate to a trained staff member.
Connecticut: Doctor must see each patient before laser hair removal
but can delegate procedures to a physician assistant, RN or LPN.
Doctor can delegate Botox, wrinkle fillers and chemical peels to staff. Louisiana: Only doctors or dentists can use lasers. Doctors can
delegate Botox, chemical peels and wrinkle fillers to staff. Florida: Only plastic surgeons and dermatologists may work as medical
spa directors. They can delegate laser work to an electrologist, and can
delegate other skin care procedures to a registered nurse or
physician's assistant. Doctor's practice must be within 75 miles of a
Source: The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
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Published on Mon, Apr 23, 2007
Tags: medi-spas, beauty, legal action