Suit from Laser Hair Removal Injuries Highlights Need for Training and Oversight

Posted By Kate Harper, Monday, February 25, 2019

By Patrick O'Brien, J.D., Legal Coordinator for the American Med Spa Association

If you are thinking there is a lot of Medical Spa related news coming from Houston, TX, you would be right. We've previously commented on some criminal medical spa issues here. And, today, I want to draw your attention to a recent civil suit filed in Harris County District Court by a man who received multiple painful and sensitive burns on his legs and trunk as a result of an improper laser hair removal procedure. According to the article, the specific laser machine was new to the medical spa and during the procedure, the plaintiff recalls hearing the employee say "uh-oh."

"Uh-oh" is something you never want to hear during a haircut let alone a medical procedure. This highlights a topic we have touched on several times: while laser hair removal (LHR) and other procedures can be very safe, they are not without risk of injury or complication. It is critical that individuals who perform these procedures have proper training and skill not only in the device itself but the underlying human physiology at play. Often this medical knowledge will be gained in acquiring a professional health care license or it may be provided under the supervision of a physician or other qualified health care professional.

Most states recognize the importance of having this medical oversight of these procedures. Whether it is, as most states do, by treating laser hair removal as a medical procedure or, as in states such as Texas or Florida, by having licensed laser technicians who practice under a consulting physician, a medical professional is involved at some stage in the process. (AmSpa members may review their state summary for details on their state's laser laws.)

The major exception to this is New York where laser hair removal is not regulated by any organization. We've previously discussed the efforts to pass legislation and this year's Assembly Bill 821 that seeks to bring the LHR industry under regulation. AB821 would create training requirements for LHR technicians and require that they practice in facilities overseen by a consulting physician.

However, 2019 could also see Arizona replace New York as being the wild west of LHR laws. A Bill introduced in Arizona's Senate this year would reduce oversight of their laser technicians allowing them to practice under a "laser safety officer" who does not require any sort of medical background. Even more notable is that laser technicians in AZ are not limited to LHR but may also perform other laser and light based skin procedures. Procedures that carry a much greater risk of complication or adverse outcome all without any medical professional oversight or supervision.

As covered before, in order for the Medical Aesthetic Industry to continue to grow and thrive it needs to have practical rules. Part of ensuring this is operating in a way that maximizes patient outcomes, minimizes complications, and avoids drawing negative attention. Having properly trained and supervised people to perform the procedures is a huge part of this. State Legislatures pass legislation reactively and overly restrictive laws get passed in reaction to shocking news. For instance, Virginia enacted their LHR regulations in the wake of a lurid news story where a patient was burned after receiving treatment performed by the clinic's janitor.

Again, we don't have any details on the training or supervision involved in the above LHR lawsuit from Houston. In general, a person with better training, education, and skill in the procedure, the device, and with medical supervision is going to have fewer "uh-oh" moments than a person who only has the minimum training. Eliminating "uh-oh" moments is a critical step to long term success for both your Medical Spa and the Industry at large.

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