Medical Malpractice

Medical Spas, Malpractice & the "New You"

Not liking what you see in the mirror? Perhaps you're thinking about visiting a medical spa for help with those frown lines, age spots or facial hair.

Use caution when selecting a facility. Although modern medical techniques can produce dramatic cosmetic results, possible complications can be much more serious than a bad haircut.

Booming Medical Spa Market

Trendy medical spas are springing up across the country - since 2005, the number has grown from about 500 to over 2,500. Tucked away in malls and shopping centers, they offer advanced cosmetic medical procedures in a spa atmosphere.

Instead of visiting a doctor's office, clients flock to them for botox injections, laser hair removal and pharmaceutical-grade skin care products, just to name a few of the popular "menu" items offered by the spas.

Lawmakers Try To Keep Up

Unfortunately, state lawmakers struggle to keep up with the rapid growth of these spas. The degree of medical supervision and training required to perform laser treatments and other cosmetic procedures differs from state to state. And, state laws vary on whether a doctor must be on-call, at the location, in the room or actually performing the procedure.

The cosmetology, professional licensing or some other agency in your state can give you details about the legal requirements for med spas in your area.

Makeover Malpractice

The rise in medical spa use, together with loose government regulation, naturally led to a dramatic increase in the number of lawsuits filed over botched spa treatments. The risks of these procedures include burns, scarring, infection and even death. For instance:

  • A North Carolina woman died from a lidocaine overdose after she covered her legs with the gel as instructed by her local hair-removal clinic
  • Also in North Carolina, woman was awarded $500,000 against a medical spa because she developed a serious blood infection from a procedure to reduce stomach fat
  • In Michigan, a woman sued a clinic after an unsupervised technician cut her face with a laser

Medical malpractice attorneys predict that litigation against medical spas will continue to rise. They caution clients to thoroughly investigate a spa and its operators before seeking any treatments.

Medical Spa Safety

The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery offers advice for patients considering cosmetic procedures in a spa or salon:

  • Choose a location carefully. Beware of store-front or shopping mall locations that don't have on-site medical staff. Emergency care should be immediately available in case something goes wrong
  • Make sure a doctor is on site. Most cosmetic medical procedures should be performed by a physician board-certified in dermatology. If a physician is supervising the procedure, make sure the doctor is at the location and available to immediately respond to any questions or problems
  • Check credentials. Ask about the background, training, certification and licensing of the physician and staff. Membership in a medical specialty organization shows the physician's desire to keep up on the latest medical information
  • Discuss pain management options. Even minor cosmetic treatments can cause discomfort. Understand the benefits and risks of the options available for dealing with pain
  • Don't go to a home or hotel room. Cosmetic procedures are medical procedures. They aren't safe in these settings
  • Don't rely on price. A deep discount on the cost of procedures often indicates you aren't receiving the best treatment.

Ask the Right Questions

It's your money and your body. Protect them both. Don't be afraid to ask questions, such as:

  • How do you deal with an emergency?
  • What training does the staff have?
  • Who will perform the procedure?
  • Is this treatment right for me?
  • Is this laser, device or technique appropriate for my skin type?
  • Have you performed this procedure before on the same body part I'm considering? May I see your before and after photographs?
  • Have you reviewed my medical history?

Most importantly, don't be afraid to walk away. If it doesn't feel right, find a more reputable location.

There's nothing wrong with a little pampering. Just don't let flickering candles and soothing music make you forget that many cosmetic procedures involve serious medical risks.

Questions for my Attorney

  • I'm not injured, I just don't see any cosmetic improvement from the spa treatments. Do I have a right to get my money back?
  • How serious does my injury have to be for me to file a lawsuit against the spa?
  • How much money would I recover in a lawsuit against the spa?
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