You are now officially a baby boomer or an advanced generation X and you do not like a certain aspect of what you see in the mirror. Perhaps you are thinking about visiting a medical spa (medi spa for short) for help with your frown lines, age spots, facial hair and or visceral fat, etc.

Trendy medical spas are springing up all over the country, in less than ten years the number has grown to more than 2,500. Instead of visiting a board-certified dermatologist, many patients flock to these clinics for Botox injections, laser hair removal, pharmaceutical grade skin care products, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) therapy for weight management and laser lipo-procedures to remove fat in problem areas. State lawmakers struggle to keep up with the growth of these spas and the degree of medical supervision and training required performing laser and other cosmetic procedures which differs from state to state. Although medical techniques can produce dramatic results, possible complications are very real and consequences very serious – consumers need to use caution when selecting a facility.

An Arizona woman sued Timeless Laser & Skin in Maricopa County Superior Court, alleging that she was severely burned and scarred during laser hair removal. A North Carolina woman won a $500,000 judgment against a medi spa over a serious blood infection she allegedly developed from a procedure to reduce fat in her stomach. (The National Law Journal Sept 2, 2009, Law.Com).

HCG is approved by the FDA as a prescription drug for the treatment of female infertility and other medical conditions. It has not been approved for weight loss, yet many marketers claim that HCG can “reset your metabolism” and change abnormal eating patterns. As with all prescription drugs there are potential side effects and drug interactions that patients need to consider related to the benefits outweighing the risk.

Legal experts are now seeing a trend in lawsuits targeting medical spas especially laser hair removal. In a recent study published in JAMA, researchers found that for 175 claims filed from 1999 thru 2012 for injuries related to cosmetic procedures such as laser hair removal, in nearly half the cases (43%), the error involved a non physician.

Consumers need to be aware of the risks of cosmetic procedures and do their research before making decisions and owners of cosmetic-procedure clinics, need risk management training and adequate liability insurance coverage.

The most important coverage for a medical spa is professional liability (preferably for each employee who provides treatment) with an A rated carrier with experience in cosmetic procedures. Coverage options for sexual allegations, HIPAA violations and disciplinary proceedings, retroactive liability, product liability, cyber liability, anesthetist liability & regulatory fines and penalties can help protect the clinic financially if a client brings a lawsuit after treatment.

For consumers, the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery offers advice for patients considering procedures in a spa or salon. Some of the topline common sense solutions:

  • Choose location carefully – beware of store front locations that do not have onsite medical staff. Emergency medical care should be available immediately.
  • Physicians should be onsite and cosmetic procedures should be performed by a board- certified dermatologist.
  • Check credentials, certifications, background training and licensing.
  • Discuss pain management options before procedure.
  • Cosmetic procedures should not be performed in a home or hotel room as they are not safe in these settings.