|A Question about Ethics and Tattoo Art Work
Jul 6, 2009
After a few years of considering a Tattoo and researching HIV related issues with getting a tattoo I finally obtained one. I guess you could say it was a whim because I did not plan, I simply went to a Tattoo convention. I talked with several artist and finally chose one. My expectation was that I was going to be given a document where I was asked about my status. (There are alot of people around and I did not want to say it out loud.) This was not done, I did ask questions about sterility; and was reassured that all precautions were and are taken. I obtained a small tattoo design about two and a half inches in diameter. I was invited to the artist studio to expand the design and have been back twice for more work on a sleeve. (Again I was expecting a document; especially because we are outside of the convention, none was given.) I observed the process of cleaning and universal precautions, and felt satisfied. My needles are always new, as well as some other portion of the tattoo gun, both parts are thrown away after use into a proper container, the ink is also thrown away. However, to date, I have yet to be asked my status, and I am beginning to feel an internal conflict. I called around to other tattoo shops, and have learned that practically no one ask this question, in my area. Yet I am still concerned with my ethical obligation in this process. Have I done something wrong? Should I inform the artist before more work is done? As a massage therapist I am required to determine any contraindication to massage. I do not depend on my client to disclose this information, they are given a consent form, as well as a recommendation that a doctor consent to massage. If this were an interpersonal interaction, the ethical boundaries are much more solid in my mind, you tell, but this is new to me. Am I obliged to disclose such information in this situation? I am afraid of leaving my e-mail for fear that I may have done something wrong.
| Response from Dr. Frascino
You've done nothing wrong nor breached any ethical boundaries. You report you asked questions about sterility and were reassured all precautions were taken. You "observed the process of cleaning and universal precautions." Your needles were new and appropriately disposed of after use. Why are you conflicted about not revealing your HIV status? It's certainly not a requirement for getting inked. Universal precautions have been in place for years to protect both tattooers and tattooees. These same universal precautions protect health care workers and patients from transmitting or acquiring HIV and other bloodborne pathogens, such as hepatitis. It's worth noting that one out of every five HIV-positive Americans has absolutely no idea they are infected with the virus.
So relax Max! You did nothing wrong. Any chance of getting "I love Dr. Bob" inked across your six-pack? No? Well can I at least get a complimentary massage (with or without happy ending)?
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