Death of 19-year-old girl rekindles concern over risks of plastic surgery

Xia Lisha Photo: Red Star News

The death of a 19-year-old girl from Guiyang, the capital of China's southwestern Guizhou Province, from a nose surgery earlier this month has rekindled widespread concerns over the risks of China's fast-expanding plastic surgery industry.

Xia Lisha, a student of a local nursing school, went to the Guizhou Limacon Hospital for the surgery on January 3 after years of dissatisfaction with her "flat" nose, but never came back to life again during the operation.

Limacon is a listed company on the National Equities Exchange and Quotations, and boasts the biggest cosmetic surgery clinic in the province.

Accompanied by her relatives, Xia was wheeled into the operation room at about 1:00pm, but did not come to life until 6:00pm, according to state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

At about 8:15pm, she was secretly sent to the ICU of the Affiliated Hospital of Guizhou Medical University, which announced that Xia had died before her arrival at the hospital, reported CCTV.

Xia's elder sister then posted Xia's miserable experience at Limacon on China's Twitter-like Weibo, in a move to denounce what she called the hospital's irresponsible act of transferring the girl to another hospital without informing her relatives.

The incident sparked a public outcry, prompting employees of Limacon to attempt to give money to Xia's elder sister for deleting the relevant posts, according to the girl.

In a public response, Tian Zhu, a spokeswoman for Limacon, said that Xia died from anesthesia complications, a genetic disease.

"We had no time to inform Xia's relatives of the medical accident at that time, and we didn't offer a bribe to her sister for deleting posts," said Tian.

"We will not pass the buck if her death was confirmed to be caused by our inappropriate operations during the surgery."

Local health authorities have launched a probe into the incident.

Worries over plastic, cosmetic surgery industry in China

China has overtaken Brazil to become the world's second largest plastic and cosmetic surgery market.

Double eyelid surgery, nose surgery, face-lifts, and wrinkle-removal treatments are the most performed cosmetic surgeries in the country.

According to statistics from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, China's plastic surgery market grew by the average annual growth rate of 42.23 percent from 2015 to 2017, and the rate predicted for 2018-2020 is 29.35 percent despite rising public suspicion over its safety and rising costs.

"The market is expected to reach 315 billion yuan by 2020," said the organization.

Most cosmetic surgery consumers are those born after 1990, who account for over 50 percent of the group, according to industry report released by SoYoung, China's popular social network for plastic surgery, in 2017.

"The industry has huge potential when the youngsters born after 1995 and 2000 grow up," said the report. "They are more open to plastic surgery."

In China, plastic surgeries are mainly performed by public hospitals and privately owned hospitals, as well as smaller clinics and beauty salons, totaling over 10,000 across the country..

Privately owned hospitals account for nearly 70 percent of the market share in 2016, according to the latest statistics available by the AskCI Consulting.

Due to the lack of effective supervision, as well as qualification, sporadic incidences or even deaths from the surgeries were often highlighted in social and public media, causing widespread concerns over the risks in the booming industry.

To scale up, some institutions were reported to have merged clinics and license their brands without considering whether their medical workers are qualified or competent for the job.

Even after being fined by the authorities, they would still continue their business without major corrections, sparkling calls for tougher measures to streamline the sector.

Wang Bei, a singer who participated in the popular Chinese singing competition show Super Girl, died in 2010 when taking a plastic surgery at a Wuhan hospital in Central China's Hubei Province.

Incidents like these dealt a heavy blow to Chinese consumers' confidence, making them travel to other countries like South Korea to undergo the surgeries.

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