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As laser hair removal increases in popularity, more suits target nonphysician operators

Posted Jan 9, 2014 7:25 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Laser hair removal is not without risks, and adverse outcomes sometimes result in lawsuits.

In one case, a Brooklyn woman sued after a third hair-removal session ended with burning pain and long red marks on the back of her legs that eventually turned brown. She sued the laser operator, who was not a physician, and reached a confidential settlement, the New York Times Well blog reports.

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About 35 states consider laser hair removal to be the practice of medicine, but only 26 states require on-site medical supervision when nonmedical operators offer the treatment, the story says. Three states—New York, Virginia and Georgia—don’t consider laser hair removal to be a medical treatment. Eleven others don’t have laws regulating the practice at all.

The Times cites a study published in October in JAMA Dermatology. The authors identified cases involving laser surgery, and found the percentage involving nonphysician operators increased from 36 percent in 2008 to about 78 percent in 2011.

One of the authors is Dr. Mathew Avram, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Center. “Some states are legislating and protecting patients, but a great many are not," he told the Times. “It’s basically the Wild West of medicine."

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