British Columbia·CBC Investigates

Suspected illegal basement cosmetic surgery clinic raided in Delta

A suspected illegal surgery clinic in Delta, where cosmetic procedures are alleged to have been performed by a fake doctor, has been raided by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, escorted by Delta Police.

B.C. College of Physicians conducts unusual raid on a private residence

The B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons and Delta Police raided a basement business in this house on Dec. 20. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

A suspected illegal surgery clinic in Delta, where cosmetic procedures are alleged to have been performed by a fake doctor, has been raided by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, escorted by Delta Police. 

​The raid happened Dec 20, after a B.C. Supreme Court judge authorized the search of the private home a woman shares with her husband and children in a quiet neighbourhood in North Delta.

"The B.C. Supreme Court issued a search and seizure order under Section 29 of the Health Profession Act arising out of an investigation the college conducted into a possible case of the unlicensed practice of medicine at a location in Delta," said Susan Prins, the college's director of communications and public affairs. 

Section 29 pertains to search and seizure under court order. It applies to registered physicians and "a person who is not a registrant (who) has contravened this Act, the regulations or the bylaws.

"I can confirm that the unauthorized practice involved cosmetic facial procedures," said Prins.

Investigator Mike Lantz of Paladin Security (left) lead investigation, including the seizure of 14 boxes of evidence during a raid on the home business. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

Two Delta police vehicles blocked the driveway where two other vehicles were parked, and eight investigators entered the two-storey home. 

CBC News arrived shortly after the raid began on a tip from the public.

Boxes and computer seized

Investigators were seen removing more than a dozen bankers boxes of evidence from the home and at least one large Mac computer. 

Investigators appeared to focus on the basement of the home, where a business licence and cosmetic posters could be seen through the window, along with certificates that appear to suggest the operator has medical credentials.

However the suspected fake doctor is not a registrant of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and is not a licensed physician listed on any publicly available, worldwide database. She is believed to have training in esthetics and permanent makeup application.

'Combat Aging' poster on wall

A poster written only in Chinese characters on the wall of the basement wall shows before and after photos of women and advertises a procedure to "combat aging" by improving skin firmness, lightening skin colour and increasing skin permeability.

'Combat Aging' says a poster showing before and after images in the basement of the home raided by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

None of the investigators would answer any questions about the search, which took three hours. 

They could be seen talking to a woman and a man inside.

The residents of the home would not answer the door or respond to two separate written requests for an interview from CBC News. 

According to a neighbour, who spoke very little English, they are nice people and the woman who lives there is very good at "eyebrows."

City records show the basement was recently renovated, and neighbours say the pavement and stairs leading to the basement entrance are new.

College still investigating

The court file is sealed in B.C. Supreme Court and the college is still examining the items seized in the raid.

"The college will provide you with more information once it has completed the search and is in a better position to comment on specifics," said Prins.

It is the second time in as many years the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons has gone to extraordinary lengths to police the unlicensed practice of medicine.

In 2015, it took similar action to stop a woman from illegally injecting Botox in Vancouver's West End.

The college has jurisdiction over the illegal practice of medicine and has cracked down on cosmetic clinics offering procedures that only physicians are licensed to perform.

'Risk of medical misfortune'

In B.C., plastic surgeons require about 15 years of training and their operating facilities have to be inspected regularly according to the head of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons. 

Dr. Peter Lennox, president of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, says risk of "medical misfortune" and infection is high whenever an unlicensed practitioner attempts cosmetic procedures.

"Guidelines are in place to protect patients and to cover the whole gamut of the facility —not just the physical space but also how instruments are processed, how they are sterilized, the qualifications of the staff, the types of equipment you need for emergency resuscitation, right down to the HVAC and air quality and humidity," said Dr. Peter Lennox, who is also the head of plastic surgery at UBC. 

Lennox was dismayed at the possibility of an illegal basement operating room in a private residence.

"There's esthetic outcome and there's also the risk of medical misfortune. Your infection rate is higher. All of those things we worry about is much higher in a situation like that." 

He says illegal surgery clinics have been shut down in the U.S. but this is the first such raid he has heard of in Canada.

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