State Lawmakers Propose Controversial Medical Spa Regulation

State law state lawmakers are taking a closer look at the medical spa industry in response to an increasing amount of consumer complaints, At issue is a physician's ability to supervise multiple locations, and which type of professional will be able to perform certain types of procedures.

Florida and California are at the forefront of medical spa regulation. Florida is the first to limit the type of physicians who can oversee the treatments. The bill would also limit the number of practices a physician can supervise other than the doctor's primary practice to two and, starting in July 2011, to one.

Prominent dermatologist Mitchel Goldman, who runs La Jolla Spa MD, said 'Patients are getting burns and scars. If you are doing medical procedures, the doctor has got to be there in the facility while the procedure is being done. The doctor doesn't have to be involved in every procedure, but they do have to be in the office.'

Many physicians disagree with the proposed legislation limiting which type of doctor can perform procedures. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists do not receive a lot of training in aesthetic treatments commonly performed at medical spas, according to Dr. Sharon McQuillan, a family practice physician. McQuillan founded the Ageless Aesthetic Institute, which trains physicians from all specialties, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in aesthetic medicine. "The bill is motivated by economics, not patient safety. I honestly believe this was financially driven,' McQuillan said. 'It doesn't have anything to do with quality of care.'

California is also proposing tighter regulation on supervision and provider qualifications. Democrat Sen. Liz Figueroa introduced Senate Bill 1423 that will, if passed, require physicians be in the office for all laser and cosmetic medical procedures. Another related bill, also introduced by Figueroa, would make it a misdemeanor for anyone but a physician, nurse or a physician's assistant to use laser devices. "Right now there are no standards for any individual performing laser treatments," said, Figueroa, who has had constituents come to her with burns and scars from improper use of laser equipment at medical spas. Figueroa argues that a lack of regulations in California's medical spa industry raises serious safety concerns.

Trouble has been brewing with California Medical spas for quite a while, due to the proliferation of franchised laser centers offering discount "lunchtime" treatments. In May 2005, SpaTrade reported two African American women who were severely burned at lasers centers in Figueroa's district back. Lawsuits Over Lasers: Medical Spas Playing with Fire. If Figueroa's legislation passes, California physicians who operate multiple locations will be forced to scale back to one property.

The International Medical Spa Association has adamantly spoken out against the regulation of which type of doctor can perform medical spa procedures. "Why are dermatologists or plastic surgeons better qualified to supervise offsite procedures than any other physician? After all, it is possible for either class of physicians to get their board certification without taking a single course in medical spa treatments," says IMSA president Eric Light. "A case could be made that a board certified family practitioner would be better positioned to take a holistic approach to aesthetic care. And if there is an injury, why wouldn't a board certified emergency specialist be less qualified to deal with the problem?