Angry Doctor

Monday, April 07, 2008

Confidence Goods 13

We've discussed this issue in the comments section of a previous post, but it's worth another mention:

(emphasis mine)

MOH draws lines on aesthetic practices
Doctors have to follow rules, customers of salons have recourse for bad treatments
Alicia Wong

IS it a turf war between plastic surgeons and other doctors, or is it about patient safety?

Even as the Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that there will be guidelines on the practice of aesthetic medicine following its ruling on 11 treatments, it has now drawn another line in the sand.

This time, it is between doctors and beauty salon operators. The ministry has told Today that it does not regulate practices at these establishments as most of the products they use are generally not intended for medical purposes. Hence, they do not come under the Health Products Act 2007. But those that do, such as medical and laser devices, are already governed by regulations to prevent misuse.

The MOH's priority is on regulating aesthetic practices in the medical profession. "The Academy of Medicine and the College of Family Physicians are jointly working on formulating guidelines ... When these are ready, doctors are expected to abide by the guidelines," said an MOH spokesman.

But although beauty salons are not subjected to any guidelines, consumers do have recourse if treatments go awry.

If you suffer "physical harm", you may be able to file a civil suit against it or its beauticians for negligence to recover damages for personal injury, said the spokesman. You may even be able to take civil action against the beauty salon under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act if it has carried out unfair practices such as making a false claim. You can also file a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore.

And if you feel the salon has performed a rash or negligent act that might have endangered your life and the personal safety of others, you can report it to the police. Under the penal code, the beauty salon operator may be fined, imprisoned or both.

The MOH may also put a stop to the business if any practice it is carrying out is found likely to be causing the spread of any infectious disease.

Meanwhile, some players in the beauty industry told Today that the recent publicity has led to an increase in business.

Among them is Spa Haven, which provides needle-free mesotherapy and endermologie. Mesotherapy is a technique used to inject substances, including medication and hormones, into the skin for a variety of purposes. Endermologie involves the use of a motorised massager to rid the body of cellulite and toxins. The MOH says these two treatments are "medically unsubstantiated".

In fact, the centre will raise its prices by more than 20 per cent now that some doctors may not want to perform these treatments, said Mr Chris Soh, 30, who is in charge of business development at Spa Haven. Currently, the centre charges about $250 for a mesotherapy session and $150 for an endermologie session.

Consumers told Today they would continue with their beauty treatments. Mr Clarence Chong said he would continue using the controversial micro-needling dermaroller because he finds it "safe". Others, such as banker Elaine Tan, 37, said she is not put off, but she will choose established names over smaller establishments.

This article shows the curious state of affairs where we recognise that certain treatment being sold by beauty salons are "medically unsubstantiated", yet do not move to prosecute the purveyors for "making a false claim" - in other words, they are allowed to make unsubstantiated false claims unless the buyer feels cheated and move to file a civil suit against them.

But of course there are purveyors who circumvent this bit of legislation by not making outright claims which can be proven to be false by using weasel words such as "toxins", "energy", "vitality", "beauty" - things which are not objectively defined and therefore unmeasureable - or by adding a disclaimer in small print at the corner of their advertisement.

angry doc doesn't think that such practices will change despite the recent media attention, but he hopes that more people will learn to ask questions about the services they buy, be it from doctors or beauticians.



  • There is no such thing as 'alternative medicine'. This term is just an euphemism for 'snake oil', quacks or whatever else people may care to label them.

    The bottomline is this: If the treatment is scientifically proven to be effective (i.e. via double-blind testing, etc), then it no longer has any need for the word 'alternative' in its name. It simply becomes medicine!

    Hence I do not think that consumers should blindly trust any treatments that are described as 'alternative'. Yes, it is true that they could have some merit, but if the practitioners can't be bothered to conduct proper trials, then there is no proof. If there is no proof, then they cannot complain if the ministry clamps down on them.

    By Anonymous yixuan, At April 08, 2008 2:07 pm  

  • Slightly off topic, but you may like this article by Orac, about peer-reviewed acupuncture research -

    By Blogger Lim Leng Hiong, At April 10, 2008 3:36 pm  

  • I think by now it is no news that while it is shown that acupuncture and sham acupunture are effective at relieving certain symptoms, it is has also been shown that there isn't a real difference between the two.

    What does provide more insight on the topic is Orac's other post on another acupuncture study:

    also featured on 'Science-based Medicine', which shows that a large part of the 'efficacy' observed in sham acupuncture treatment may be due to placebo effect.

    By Blogger angry doc, At April 10, 2008 4:33 pm  

  • Unfortunately for the doctors (may be only some doctors) and fortunately for the patients, doctors are held to a higher standard than beauticians.

    Last checked, doctors still get more respect than beauticians. It is the high standard of self regulation that make people respect doctors. It comes with the territory.

    All said, beauticians need to be regulated as well but doctors should not use this as an argument or excuse to condone the present state of "aesthetic medicine" There are lots of unsavory characters in this trade. Just visit some of their websites.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 27, 2008 9:50 pm  

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