Increasing Number of Lawsuits Involving Laser Procedures Performed by Non-Physicians

Laser skin procedures, such as laser hair removal and wrinkle reduction procedures, have become increasingly popular in recent years. Patients appreciate the relative ease and convenience with which they can get laser skin procedures, with many procedures only taking a matter of minutes to perform.

Unfortunately, laser skin procedures are not always safe and there have been a growing number of lawsuits involving laser procedures that have been performed by non-doctors outside of a medical facility, such as a “medical spa.” In a study published on October 16 in the online edition of the journal JAMA Dermatology, researchers looked at data collected from an online U.S. database of public legal documents to identify the number of lawsuits related to skin laser surgery performed by doctors. Of the 175 cases filed between 1999 and 2012, 75 involved a laser skin procedure not performed by a doctor.

The study also found that, since 2008, the number of lawsuits involving treatment by practitioners other than doctors has risen from about 36 percent of all cases to nearly 78 percent of all cases in 2011.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University’s School of Medicine, “because medical-grade lasers and intense pulsed light has the potential to harm patients, they are considered prescription medical devices and are therefore subject to [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] statutes and state medical board regulations to ensure that the devices are sold and used by physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists or veterinarians.”

But even though the laser devices are regulated by the FDA and must be used under the supervision of doctors, state laws vary on the definition of “supervision.” Some states require a doctor to be on site, while others do not. State laws also vary on who can perform the laser procedures and the amount of training that is necessary for non-physicians. In most states, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and physical or occupational therapists are qualified to perform laser procedures, and some states even allow medical assistants, aestheticians, cosmeticians, and nail technicians to perform the procedures.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Robert Murphy, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, says that the lasers that are used for dermatological procedures are powerful and can cause skin burns and cell damage when used by someone who is not properly trained. Laser procedures can also cause damage to the eyes if property precautions are not taken.

The Chicago accident and injury lawyers at Ankin Law, LLC are dedicated to protecting the rights of patients injured by medical negligence and improper use of a medical device. If you have been injured by a laser procedure, contact our office at (312) 626-7838 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago personal injury attorneys.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

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