Tougher laws needed for laser operators

07:30 Mon Nov 19 2012
MSN NZ
Tough laws needed for laser operators
Thinkstock

New Zealand needs tougher regulations to prevent unqualified operators misusing cosmetic lasers and putting people at risk of melanoma and other skin cancers, say medical specialists.

The New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine (NZCAM) is backing the tighter regulations proposed in the Health (Skin Cancer and Trauma Prevention) Amendment Bill, drawn up by National MP Paul Hutchison.

NZCAM president Dr Teresa Cattin says it’s unacceptable that anyone can buy and operate devices that have the potential to cause significant burns and permanent scarring when used incorrectly.

"I have seen distressed patients in my clinic who have been scarred by untrained, unqualified people using laser and VPL devices," says Dr Cattin. "Many of my NZCAM colleagues have had similar experiences.

"Untrained laser operators are not only inflicting injury by burning patients, they are not qualified to recognise skin cancers when clients present with them."

Dr Cattin says NZCAM is aware of a number of cases where malignant skin lesions have been treated inappropriately because beauty therapists failed to recognise signs of cancer. Instead of being cut out, malignant lesions have been treated with a laser device, with devastating outcomes for the patients.

Last year, the Medical Council of New Zealand ruled that doctors needed additional qualifications before they could perform cosmetic procedures, including laser treatments. However, lack of regulation allows those outside the medical profession and without qualifications to perform the same procedures.

Dr Cattin says this loophole in the law is clearly contrary to patient safety.

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