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    Cosmetic Surgery in Unflattering Light After Fatal Liposuction

    Illegal beauty clinics dominate what is a booming industry in China.

    The death of an influencer who developed fatal complications after undergoing liposuction has once more sparked discussion in China about the perils of cosmetic surgery and the poor oversight of the sector.

    The woman, surnamed Dai, died earlier this week, about two months after going for treatment at Hangzhou Huayan Medical Cosmetic Hospital, a privately run clinic in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, a friend of hers shared online.

    Dai, 33, was a fashion designer who founded the Italian brand Julia & Julie in 2014, and who had more than 130,000 followers on microblogging platform Weibo. Her death sparked heated discussion, with a related hashtag racking up over 700 million views.

    The Hangzhou Municipal Health Commission responded to the commotion on Thursday, saying Dai’s death is a case of medical negligence and that the clinic had been found fully responsible for the incident. The commission added the clinic lacked expertise, made mistakes during the operation, and didn’t offer timely treatment afterward. It has since been closed by the commission.

    China’s market for cosmetic surgeries has proliferated in recent years, and consultancy iResearch predicts it will be worth over 300 billion yuan ($46 billion) and cater to more than 25 million consumers by 2023.

    But oversight of the industry is lacking and regulations are out-of-date. The vast majority of clinics operate outside the law. In 2019, the company said, there were 13,000 legal clinics and more than 80,000 illegal competitors. Demand for increasingly invasive and risky procedures is rising, as is the number of disputes over allegedly botched surgeries.

    Following Dai’s death, many social media users swapped cosmetic surgery horror stories of their own, or brought up past high-profile cases.

    In 2019, a 32-year-old woman in the southwestern city of Chengdu died after undergoing liposuction surgery at a clinic that had obtained its license just one month prior. In February, actress Gao Liu shocked fans after she shared photos of how a failed nose job has turned the tip of her nose into a black stump.

    Media reported Friday of a woman who suffered from severe muscle weakness after receiving a leg slimming injection at an unlicensed cosmetic surgery clinic in Shanghai.

    Dai’s medical records, also made public by her friend, show she suffered from constant pain as well as symptoms like heart palpitations and shortness of breath after the five-hour liposuction surgery in early May. However, the clinic did not take her complaints seriously.

    Two days later, Dai called herself an ambulance and was transferred to an intensive care unit, where she was diagnosed with skin ulceration and organ failure. She spent the last two months of her life on a respirator.

    Liposuction is considered a relatively mature cosmetic surgery that is safe as long as doctors follow standards, Zhang Jingde, a cosmetic surgeon at Shanghai East Hospital, told Sixth Tone. However, patients also need to be healthy, because, he said, “the operation is an attack against one’s immune system.”

    Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

    (Header image: BraunS/E+/People Visual)