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Staying above the law

Article-Staying above the law

New York — Medical expertise is only part of the equation for a successful medical spa.

Understanding your legal responsibilities toward patients and employees will help protect you from time-consuming — and possibly expensive — legal action.


Dr. Goldberg
David Goldberg, M.D., J.D., says the relationship between spa owners or medical directors and so-called "physician extenders" is legally referred to as an agency relationship. Spa operators are considered employees, so they receive a benefits package, Dr. Goldberg explains. He adds that operators must be directed by someone (usually a physician), and must perform their jobs as specified in written job descriptions.

Dr. Goldberg is the director of Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of New York and New Jersey, and an adjunct professor of law at Fordham University Law School in Bronx, N.Y., as well as director of Mohs surgery and laser research, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

Tools, guidelines, supervision

Any physician extender or aesthetician who works in a spa or physician's office should have a manual that spells out the scope of their duties, Dr. Goldberg tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.

He cautions that if an operator does something that is not specified within that manual, even if directed to do so by a physician, and something goes wrong, the operator may still be liable. Dr. Goldberg advises aestheticians to be certain that their employer has adequate insurance coverage.

Laws that specify who is qualified to perform certain procedures vary by state, and they are constantly changing, Dr. Goldberg says.

Overall, guidelines are getting tougher, because of several high-profile malpractice cases brought against medical and day spas in recent years. According to Dr. Goldberg, these lawsuits involved spa services performed by unqualified personnel that resulted in the deaths of several young women nationwide.

Unfortunately, Dr. Goldberg says, no Web site or other resource exists that provides up-to-date information about these changing laws. He advises prospective medical spa owners to seek advice from their local health law attorneys.

Written consent should be obtained from clients prior to their procedures, Dr. Goldberg advises. He urges medical spa staff to think as if they're working in a physician's office, and says that simply obtaining verbal consent is inadequate.

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