COA: Laser hair removal not 'health care'

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Laser hair removal isn't considered "health care" within the meaning of the state's Medical Malpractice Act, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

A unanimous ruling today affirmed a trial court decision in OB-GYN Associates of Northern Indiana P.C. v. Tammy Ransbottom, No. 71A03-0711-CV-503, which involved a St. Joseph County case and the denial of a motion to dismiss a negligence action.

In January 2006, Ransbottom had gone to a Mishawaka OB-GYN's office and underwent the cosmetic laser hair removal treatment. She went for cosmetic purposes and not medical reasons, and as a result of the treatment that day she alleged she was burned by the laser. Ransbottom later filed a negligence complaint, but the association filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the laser treatment constituted "health care." The trial court denied the motion and the case went up on appeal.

"The question before us is whether the laser hair removal treatment Ransbottom received at Ob-Gyn was 'health care' within the meaning of the Medical Malpractice Act," Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote. "In pressing their respective arguments, the parties have regrettably little in the way of precedent upon which to rely. There are virtually no Indiana cases on the general subject of what constitutes health care within the meaning of the Medical Malpractice Act."

Parties relied on four Indiana cases relating to the act and what constitutes health care, as well as one from the Wyoming Supreme Court dealing with hair removal. But the Hoosier appellate court noted that those cases offer little guidance in this case.

The association argued that the treatment was performed by a registered nurse who worked for a health-care provider, used equipment that required training and expertise, and could have resulted in injury if not administered properly.

But the court countered those arguments because the treatment was not recommended or supervised by a physician, a registered nurse degree or any medical training was not necessary to operate the machine, and that laser hair treatment can be legally administered in beauty salons by those employees. The court pointed to one of its 2001 decisions that held a doctor-patient relationship is a prerequisite to maintaining a malpractice action.

The court pointed out that hair-removal treatment is analogous to tattoo equipment and tanning beds because they are also used on human bodies and aren't considered "health care."

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