Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Florida Medspa Death Highlights Need for Tougher Regulation

According to the International Medspa Association, medspas (defined as a spa that provides medical services) have grown by 85% in last 2 years – despite the US economic recession. Medspa annual revenues are now in excess of $2 billion, according to the Aesthetic Medicine News. Some of these medspas are within the offices of cosmetic dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Many other medspas are not. Some of the medspas that are not within physician offices are overseen by on-site cosmetic dermatologists and plastic surgeons; others, often, are not. This past week an ABC News Nightline episode highlighted what can go very wrong in this latter setting. ABC News highlighted a patient who died during a liposuction procedure performed at an unlicensed Florida medspa by a physician with almost no cosmetic training.

I, as a NY and NJ cosmetic dermatologist and attorney who teaches Health Care Law at NY’s Fordham Law School, was interviewed by ABC's Nightline about the lack of medspa regulations in so many states. The issue arises not only with procedures such as liposuction, but with techniques that range from laser hair removal to wrinkle filler injections. It should be noted that the states of New York, Vermont and Georgia do not even consider laser hair removal the practice of medicine–even though horrendous facial scarring can occur when this procedure is not performed correctly.

Societies such as the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), the American Society for Lasers in Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS), and the American Society for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) have put forth guidelines to promote safety for medspa type procedures. Guidelines are not law. No medspa is forced to follow these guidelines. It will ultimately be up to society, through their pressure on legislators, to push through tougher regulations for the growing medspa industry.

There is no question that procedures performed at the unlicensed medspa in Florida are much less expensive than similar procedures performed within our offices. It can also be argued that complications can occur during any procedure. This is certainly true. However one must also wonder if the unfortunate death that occurred in the Florida medspa is a terribly tragic example of “you get what you pay for”.

Dr. David J. Goldberg
Sanctuary Medical Aesthetic Center, Boca Raton
Skin Laser Surgery Specialists of NY/NJ


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