Do Not Get a Homemade Tattoo
I'm Going to Post This Before Dianna Gets to It

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I've sort of idly toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo, but have been restrained by my inability to think of something meaningful to have emblazoned permanently on my body. I think that holding back has, on balance, been a good thing, because by doing so I've collected more information about the art of tattoos, as well as the practical concerns of getting them. Therefore, if I should decide to get one eventually, I think the chances of disappointment are at least somewhat smaller.

So, today's lesson on tattoos: Do not get a tatto from a door-to-door tattoo salesman using a poorly-constructed home-made gun. Apparently several people in Springfield, Missouri got tattoos from someone going door-to-door in their apartment complex. The gun used was held together with pins, black tape, and fishing wire. The women got tattoos anyway. The next day one of the women passed out and all of the women have gotten infections. They're being advised to get tested for hepatitis and HIV. Apparently the state department of health could go after the tattoo salesman (I hesitate to call him a tattoo artist) if enough people file complaints against him.

The knee-jerk reaction I had was to blame the victims, which is unfortunate. Yes, they clearly behaved stupidly. Even if you have no knowledge of the tattoo business and don't, for instance, know that they are not typically sold door-to-door, it seems like you ought to have the sense not to let someone puncture you with a rickety home-made gun. Still, though, I can see how it would happen, from their perspective. They know what a tattoo is, of course, and have sort of thought they might like one, but not enough to pursue it. A fellow comes to their door with, I'm guessing, a good sales pitch, undoubtedly offering a cheap rate. It's too expensive for them to get a real tattoo, or perhaps they hadn't thought about it seriously enough to look into it, but they end up deciding to get one on an impulse. It's the same reason you don't put candybars on your list when you go to the supermarket, but since they happen to be there when you're checking out, you may as well buy one for the trip home.

Assuming the facts are as related, nobody should be blamed but the salesman. He's preying on the ignorant in a way that has potentially devastating health consequences. It's pretty easy to blame the victims when stupid actions on their parts lead to injury. But there's a world of difference when some malefactor is the agent of the harm. The injurer is acting in bad faith to exploit others, and it doesn't matter if her victims behaved stupidly in falling for the scheme; the injurer still deserves every shred of the blame for the harms caused by her actions.

1 Comment


Door-to-door?? There is no earthly way you can sterilize something while going from door to door with it (actually, that's not true, it's just that few people would lug around an entire shop's worth of autoclaved needles, gloves, single-use marking pens, clean stencil paper, plastic sleeves for the tattoo machine, single-use ink cups, and I forget whatever else clean shops are always stuffed to the rafters with). That's not even necessarily related to the homemade issue; if you have some knowledge of what you're doing and you cobble together a working machine, there's no reason why you shouldn't a) practice perfectly good hygiene with it and b) create perfectly good tattoos with it. This guy apparently did neither. The former is due to the fact that he was fucking going door-to-door tattooing people, and the latter... well, he's a great big fucking hack, that's what. The picture attached to that article shows a tattoo that's blown out (already!) and full of inappropriate ghost-lines that are almost more prominent than the design itself. That's terrible. "Bad faith" seems downright mild to describe claiming to have a quite involved skill which one flat-out doesn't have.

I would like to know more about this infection and passing out business. The devil's advocate in me begs to point out that doctors on the whole are fairly prone to misdiagnosing infection in piercings (i.e. mistaking normal healing process for infection), and that tattoo, while it looks aesthetically awful, doesn't look medically awful as I would expect from a localized infection. The suggestion to get tested for various bloodborne pathogens is of course excellent, and generally too much paranoia about cross-contamination is a better thing to inspire than too little, but I'm kind of hoping that the infection claim is apocryphal and that the issue remains one of ethical principle rather than actual results.

Gah. My blood, it boils. For the record, you got to this one not only before me, but before BME news. Good job.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on February 1, 2006 4:32 PM.

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