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The Importance of Full Medical Disclosure

Being Honest With Your Artist About Medical Conditions and Medications


The Importance of Full Medical Disclosure
Sara Sanger/Photolibrary/Getty Images
In 2003, 21 year-old Eric Rachesky decided to get a tattoo despite the fact that he had a heart murmur that required him to get antibiotic injections even before visiting the dentist. He did not, however, have an injection before getting his tattoo. He died a few weeks later.

Two years ago, 17 year-old Daniel Hindley died from a lip piercing because he had a heart defect that made him hyper-vulnerable to infection. He was poisoned to death by his own blood when his circulation failed.

If you have a medical condition or on any kind of prescription medication, it is important that you disclose (make known, reveal) these things to your artist before any tattoo or piercing procedure. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • A Heart Condition
  • Diabetes
  • Hemophilia
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Severe Allergies
  • Epilepsy
  • Pregnant or Nursing
  • 6 Months or Less Postpartum or Post-Weaning

Prescription Medications
Acne - You may not think of acne as being a major medical condition – which it isn’t – but if you’re taking Accutane, Minomycin (or any other Tetracycline-related medication, including birth control) or any other prescription drug for acne, you do not want to get tattooed. And once you’re off the medication, it can take 6 months to a year for it to be out of your system and safe to get inked. Prescription drugs for acne cause the skin to be hyper-sensitive. Getting a tattoo can be disastrous and lead to severe pain and scarring.

Some have even reported that the antibiotics caused their body to perceive the ink as a threat and “fight” it, which resulted in the tattoo actually being removed/carried away into the bloodstream.

“My sister was on [Accutane], but came off after only being treated for 4 weeks. She didn’t even think of being on that drug when she got a tat on her shoulder 4 months later (after all she was only on it 3 wks) It healed horribly and scarred [severely]. She had tattoos before she was on the medication, and they never looked like this, the skin [actually] peeled off in a sheet as if she had the worst sunburn ever. I knew the tat…was done in a sterile clean environment, by a professional and well respected artist.” TattooNow Member

Blood Thinners – If you are taking any kind of medication to thin your blood, you will want to inform your artist beforehand and possibly consult with your doctor. Depending on the reason you are taking the medication, it may not be wise to get tattooed or it may simply require shorter sessions.

Anti-Rejection – If you have had an organ transplant and/or are on anti-rejection medication, getting a tattoo may not be a wise decision. Consult with your doctor first to determine if your over-all health is strong enough to withstand the stress of getting tattooed and if your medications may interfere with the healing process.

"I had a client come in last week for a tattoo and just before we were to sit down (design done stencil made table set up) her boyfriend asks me if it is a problem if someone is pregnant!? Of course I said yes its a problem and proceeded to explain all the reasons you shouldn't get a tattoo when pregnant or nursing...Why wouldn't this woman tell me? When she read the medical release and came to the part where it asks about any reason or condition which would affect being tattooed, shouldn't that have triggered something? I'm just glad her boyfriend said something so that I had the opportunity to turn her down before we started... I don't think the clients realize what position they put us artists in when they don't reveal their conditions honestly… I don't know what I would do if someone had a serious complication that happened because I wasn't informed.” (crystalztatz)
But They Might Turn Me Away!
If you have a medical condition as mentioned above, you may be afraid that disclosing it to your artist may result in your being refused service. This is not always the case. Even when a client is HIV-positive or has Hepatitis, that doesn’t mean the artist is necessarily going to turn them away. They might, but in most cases artists recognize the risk that goes along with their job and that is why they practice Universal Precautions. But honesty is always the best policy. The artist will appreciate knowing so they can be on their guard and maybe take extra precautions if necessary.

If the medical condition is only a risk to you and not to the artist – such as a heart condition – you are only hurting yourself not to disclose such information. If the artist decides that they cannot, in good conscience, proceed with the tattoo or piercing, it is only because they are concerned for your health. Artists don’t generally make a habit of turning away a paying client for no good reason.

Taking Your Business Elsewhere
Although an artist has the right to refuse service to a potential client based on health reasons, you also have the right to take your business elsewhere if you feel the artist was in error or being unfair. Keep in mind, however, that there will always be someone out there willing to take your money regardless of your health, and you may suffer dire consequences. Is a tattoo or piercing really worth dying for?

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