Lawsuits Against Non-Physicians Are on the Rise

A new American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association (ASDSA) study examined the growing number of lawsuits related to laser surgery and discovered a significant increase in those filed against non-physicians performing the procedures. This marks the first comprehensive study of laser surgery liability claims, published in JAMA Dermatology, which shows patients are filing more injury lawsuits when laser treatments are performed by non-physicians. Researchers say these findings show that doctor-performed or supervised services are a safer option for patients.

One-third of laser hair removal procedures are performed by non-physicians, yet they accounted for about 85 percent of injury lawsuits filed between 2008 and 2012, and 64 percent of procedures were performed outside of a traditional medical setting. "This study is critically important in demonstrating to policy makers that laser hair removal is indeed a medical procedure and should be treated as such," says ASDSA president Mitchel P. Goldman, M.D. "Increasingly, electrologists, cosmetologists, and other non-physicians are seeking the legal right to perform laser hair removal, arguing that these are not 'serious' procedures because they are cosmetic. The health and wellbeing of patients is at stake."

The ASDSA defines the practice of medicine as any act using a mechanical device capable of damaging living tissue, which includes laser hair removal. Goldman says these procedures should only be performed by appropriately trained, licensed physicians or appropriately trained, licensed allied health professionals with a physician on-site and immediately available.