Drugs, needles seized from unqualified cosmetic surgeon: B.C. regulators

Woman receiving Botox injection. File photo courtesy The Canadian Press.

Health regulators in British Columbia say at least three people suffered infections after receiving cosmetic procedures, including eye lifts and Botox injections, from a woman who is not licensed as a doctor.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. was tipped off by a member of the public in November that cosmetic surgeries were allegedly being performed in the basement of a home in Delta, B.C., said college CEO Dr. Heidi Oetter.

The college was granted a search warrant for the property on Dec. 20, where Zhuo Li was operating a business called Sabrina Permanent Make-up Studio Inc., she said.

Investigators seized a number of items from the home, including boxes and vials of injectable medication, local anaesthetic, prescription medication, syringes, needles and receipts for financial transactions ranging between $300 and $500.

"Based on the findings, the college believes it is highly probable that Ms. Li was providing facial cosmetic surgeries such as injections, eyelid lifts and facial implants, which are restricted activities that only qualified medical professionals are authorized to perform," said Oetter.

She said the business offered procedures that involved "cutting skin and moving things around and suturing it up," or injecting fillers and Botox — a procedure where the bacteria that causes botulism is injected into a muscle to relax wrinkles.

It's unclear how long the business was operating or how many people received treatment, but the college is aware of three people who suffered infections, Oetter said.

Attempts to reach Li, who also goes by the name Sabrina Li, were unsuccessful.

The college said investigators found no evidence that surgical instruments being used were properly sterilized with an autoclave, a steam chamber used in hospitals or medical clinics.

A public-health warning has been issued, urging anyone who received surgical services at Sabrina Permanent Make-up Studio Inc. to speak with a doctor and possibly undergo testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Investigators also found evidence of tattooing in the residence, Oetter said.

"I think there would be very similar concerns about the practice of tattooing as there would with the practice of surgical procedures," she said.

The college has been granted a court order that temporarily restrains Li from providing any services that are restricted by the college.

Oetter said the college will ask the court to make the order permanent, but some of the services the business advertised are not regulated by the college.

"Any other services, such as permanent makeup, I can't see how the order has any impact on that whatsoever," said Graeme Keirstead, a lawyer for the regulator.

Details of the college investigation have been passed on to the Fraser Health authority and the Corp. of Delta, which regulate some of the other services that were advertised, Oetter said.

A spokeswoman for Delta declined to comment on the case.

A spokeswoman with the Delta Police Department said officers accompanied investigators who served the search warrant, but the force is not investigating the business.

It's unusual for the college to investigate people who are practising surgery without qualifications or authorization, Oetter said.

"This is the first (case) we've had of this nature in British Columbia," she said. "I don't know if it represents that there's more of them or if it's just a one off. But it is extraordinary."

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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