Hong Kong Women Are Dying From a Mysterious 'Beauty' Treatment Intended for Cancer PatientsS

One of four Hong Kong women hospitalized for septic shock after a cosmetic treatment typically administered to terminal cancer patients has died, prompting Hong Kong's health department to reexamine the currently lax laws that make it difficult for women to tell the difference between legit medical procedures and risky/improbable rip-offs — an issue you'd think they would've considered before.

The 46-year-old woman died this morning, only one week after receiving DC-CIK therapy from Hong Kong's DR beauty center. She and three other DR patients were taken to hospitals last week after suffering headaches and diarrhea that turned out to be symptoms of septic shock, an often deadly blood infection. Needless to say, that was not what they paid for.

What is DC-CIK therapy, you ask? According to the Hong Kong Health Department, it's a risky procedure involving the "concentration and processing of blood taken from the person, and subsequent infusion of the mixture back into the patient" that is usually administered to patients with metastatic cancer who have few other options left. But DR advertised the procedure — which they called a "platelet rich plasma" on their website — as a fancy-sounding facial revitalization treatment that went for HK$50,000 (about $6,500) a pop. According to China Daily:

Based upon a claim that "growth factors" can be released from blood platelets through laboratory procedures, clients had their blood extracted, treated and reinjected into the skin to reduce wrinkles and ostensibly to encourage revitalization. The plasma was also said to be available for home use, in the form of "essence oil".

A stem cell treatment was also offered promising benefits beyond "better-looking skin". The founder of DR Group, Stephen Chow Heung-wing, said in a video interview that stem cells, cultivated from the same person's fat tissues, could increase overall vitality if infused through intravenous injection.

"A 70-year-old man used to swim 50 meters a day. After an infusion of stem cells, he is now able to swim 100 meters," he said. He also claimed there is no requirement for clinical testing to apply stem cell therapies for beauty purposes.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is also no such thing as the fountain of youth — just ask Dorian Gray. But no wishful-thinking woman should have to learn that via hospitalization (or worse), and the controversy is drawing attention to a legal loophole in Hong Kong that means its Health Ministry can only legislate over clinics or hospitals, not beauty centers. (Hence the "no requirement for clinical testing to apply stem cell therapies for beauty purposes" thing. How could anyone think that was a good idea?) "I do not rule out the possibility of the need for legislation, or an amendment to the current law to pin down those high-risk medical therapies," Hong Kong's Health Minister, Dr Ko Wing-man, told the Independent. That's big of him to say after the fact.

The founder of DR, Dr. Stephen Chow Heung-wing, defended himself by saying he was never trying to cure cancer, just help ladies look pretty. "I didn't say that it can cure any diseases. Remember that we are a beauty clinic. We refer clients to doctor(s), and we have had the clients to sign a liability-free form, which states that it is not for medical use," he said. Apparently, "not for medical use" also means "might kill you."

Hong Kong woman dies after cancer 'beauty' treatment [CNN]
Four women suffer toxic shock after beauty care [Independent]
Beauty treatment leaves 4 women ill, 3 critical [China Daily]

(Image via DR's Facebook page.)