Monday, September 29, 2008

Fish therapy gone wrong (Singapore)

( Singapore ) 8/24
Importance: Low

http://health.asiaone.com/Health/Women%2527s%2BMatters/Story/A1Story20080825-84184.html

BY: Hedy Khoo

THE latest health fad in town involves letting little fishes nibble your legs to get rid of dead skin.

These fishes are dubbed 'doctor fish', but two sisters who went for the therapy earlier this month ended up having to visit real doctors instead.

They claimed that that their legs became itchy and turned red and blotchy. They also said they had brown patches and scaly skin after going to a 'fish spa' that features the Garra rufa fish, a Turkish spa fish.

Miss Jas Huang, 22, a manicurist, and her younger sister Min, 20, a hairstylist, went for one session at a spa called Dr Fish in Ang Mo Kio on 3 Aug.

The treatment cost them $28 each, for a half-hour session. Clients have to submerge their legs in a tank filled with the fish.

Stinging sensation

Miss Jas Huang said: 'Our legs had turned red after the treatment. There was a stinging sensation on my legs when I took a shower after going home.

'But my sister thought it was part of the after-treatment process. We didn't think it was serious until a week later, when the redness and itchiness still did not go away.'

They then went to see separate doctors who told them that they had fungal infection on their skin. They were given cream to apply to the affected areas.

Miss Jas Huang said: 'I was very upset and angry at that time. It was supposed to be a treatment to rejuvenate our skin, but now our legs look so ugly that we have to see real doctors.'

She said she had tried asking for a compensation from the spa - $108 each for her and her sister. This is to cover their medical bills ($80 each) and for the refund of the treatment fee ($28 each).

But the shop declined to pay because she could not produce the medical bills. Miss Jas Huang claimed that she had thrown away the bills - hers and her sister's - in a fit of anger.

She added: 'I regret trying the fish treatment. It was fun and interesting at first, but now it has turned into a nightmare. I wouldn't dare try such treatments in future.'

Her sister Min said: 'I usually wear shorts and skirts, but now I can't. Some strangers who walked past me even commented that my legs look scary and ugly with the marks.'

Miss Jas Huang said that they did not get any receipts at the spa.

When contacted, the spa owner, Mr Steve Wong, said that his shop issues receipts only to customers who pay by Nets and those who ask for receipts

No medical receipts

He said he was aware of the incident and that he was concerned for his customers' welfare. 'Our treatment is safe because we even have parents who take their children for this treatment,' he said.

He added that the water in the tanks are changed every two to three days.

Mr Wong said he had spoken with the sisters and had asked them to go to his shop to discuss the matter.

But the sisters told him they did not have receipts for their medical treatment and had also refused to tell him which doctors they had visited.

Mr Wong also showed The New Paper on Sunday an indemnity form that all customers must sign before proceeding with the treatment. It stated that the spa 'holds no responsibility for any ailments that arises after treatment'.

However, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said that making customers sign an indemnity form does not absolve the shop from responsibility.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, the executive director of Case, said: 'The vendor is trying to exempt itself from liability against injuries suffered by its customers.

'But signing the indemnity form does not take away the right of the consumer to sue.'

Mr Seah said it could be argued that this was not allowed under the Unfair Contract Terms Act, which states that businesses cannot exempt itself from liability for injuries howsoever caused.

But the consumer needs to show proof that he had suffered injuries that were caused by the business and that he had paid for medical treatment.

If the case goes to court, the customer may need to get the clinic doctor or staff member to confirm in writing that she had gone to the clinic and incurred a certain amount of medical expenses.

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