Should piercers have a mandatory training program they must complete?
What consequences should they face for an incident of "malpractice"?
Voice your opinion on the Round Table topic in the Reader's Response section.



the mind behind BME.

Mandatory training for piercers is theoretically a great idea. However, even the best piercers disagree on many aspects of even basic technique and aftercare, so one is left with asking what could this training even include? In addition, the piercing industry contains a vast amount of specialized knowledge that few outside the field understand, as well as the fact that it is highly fractured and has never been able to form a unified self-governing body. Which leaves us with the even more difficult question of who would be able to offer this training program?

When I visit a studio, I'd like to know first of all that they are meeting all basic requirements of shop cleanliness and an understanding of the basic concepts of sterility, cross-contamination, and the functioning of their autoclave and the chemical cleaning agents they use to maintain their space. I'd like to know that there's always someone in the shop with first aid and CPR experience. Hey, I'd like to know that they have been in the business long enough that they have a fridge with some fruit juice in case I feel woozy. Thankfully, almost all of this is being legislated, and health boards are slowly learning how to interact with these businesses.

So, with the basics already covered, we're left only with the art of piercing to teach. It's my feeling that until piercing grows up, a mandatory training program is not plausible. In twenty years it will be a great idea, but right now there is simply no program to offer, and no one qualified to offer it.

As far as what consequences a piercer should face in cases of "malpractice", it's almost as difficult to define. Piercing is an inherently unpredictable art form, and even the best piercers regularly perform piercings that go bad (reject, get infected, heal slightly crooked, etc.) usually through no fault of their own. Most of what goes wrong with a piercing happens far later: it would be extremely difficult to actually show that an infection wasn't acquired long after leaving the studio. It would be just as difficult to conclusively prove that rejection resulted from poor placement rather than some minor abuse by the wearer. Even Hepatitis from a severely cross-contaminated studio could have been picked up any number of ways either before or after the piercing.

So while I'd like to see negligent piercers punished as much as anyone, actually doing so is probably virtually impossible in all but the most extreme and criminal cases. Considering that even poor studios often operate on a cleaner level than many dentists, any lawsuit against a studio would be extremely difficult to win. To sum up, piercing is an art form being performed by a fractured community. At present it is both impossible to train and to legislate anything but the basics. What I'm happy to see continuing is consumers educating themselves enough to be able to make an informed decision.


well known body modification artist from Sal's in Toronto. Interviewed on BME & BMERadio. ByBlair.com

Well, it is hard to say if there should be a training class. In one way this would just create an even more over-saturated market (i.e too many piercers and not enough clients to go around) creating price wars that will lower standards by offering cheap jewelry and less time with the piercer to discuss aftercare etc. . . or it could help to improve standerds by teaching better health standards to all piercers and teach the importance of verbal and printed aftercare instructions as well as the importance of correct quality jewelry for the individual's piercing, body shape, material sensitivities and lifestyle.

I do feel that a piercer should be held responsible for cross-contaminating a client, the same as a doctor should. The problem is it is almost impossible to prove that the piercer did it. For all we know, the client could have walked into a public washroom with a small cut on their hand 2 weeks before their piercing or maybe their so-called safe sex wasn't as safe as they thought. This would be almost impossible to prove in a court of law. I feel it is every piercer's responsibility to know and understand safe piercing techniques, for their client's safety and their own, whether they learn this from a book or a friend or a class.


staff member of Modified Mind. Featured in ear scalpelling video on BME.

Yes, piercers should definitely have some form of training program. That said, I don't feel mainstream society (doctors) should be the ones to teach it. Technique is a personal thing, so I doubt that can be taught. Sterilization and cross contamination are, by far, the most important thing to worry about. We need a few of the bigger names in the bod mod crowd to set the standards though. I've seen too many small-named people here in Florida set our regulations who obviously didn't know what they were doing.

As for malpractice: it's an interesting thought to me. I've seen a lot of hacks butcher people. I'd love to see them pay for that in some way or another. If we licensed our piercers, taking away the license wouldn't do anything; there are enough people out there that would be willing to get work done in an unprofessional setting. I believe that stiff fines are the only way to punish in the case that they don't maintain good sanitary practices.


retired staff member of BME's QOD. Interviewed on both Modified Mind and BMERadio.

Yes they should required to undergo mandatory training. I think it's ridiculous that there is no required training for a piercer at this time. I think at the very least it should be mandatory that there be some training in the sciences and first aid. Apprenticeships are preferable these days but not required. A nurse has to go through rigorous training, so why not a piercer? There needs to be some kind of reliable licensing that a potential client can use as a guideline when choosing a practitioner just like for anything else.

As for malpractice, provided that the malpractice can be proved I think that a piercer should be held financially responsible for any complications resulting. In the case of not checking ID and performing piercings on minors, any licensing to practice should be revoked, and appropriate measures taken given the nature of the piercing--if it was, for example, a piercing of a pontentially sexual nature.


moderator of the BME mailing list, photographer for Modified Mind. Featured in BME/Art.

Well this is a curly one isn't it? As is the norm, I feel my answer may go a little off track here and there, but stay with folks, this will be a good one.

My personal opinion is this. Yes. Piercers, branders, modifiers of the flesh should be trained. They should have to get a base level of knowledge (i.e. anatomy, biohazard, basic first aid) to be even let near a client, let alone be allowed to pierce on their own. As to how we can do this successfully..? I am at a loss. Piercing schools..? I feel that this would both degrade the art, and leave those with both a passion and a talent out in the cold, as it is for everyday life. For with schools, come operating costs. With operating costs comes a fee. With fees, comes a profit margin. And with those, the level of education, and the reputation of the industry goes down the toilet. This may not always be the case, but from my humble experience, it always ends up happening. Maybe not right away, but it does come into play.

Then comes the debate of what to teach them..? Should the student be taught just the basic pierces, or should they also be shown/taught the more extreme mods that are being so widely sought today. If so, who will show them..? The number of people who successfully do implants, and the other forms of extreme mods, with any lasting permanence are few and far between. If they spent their whole time teaching others, how could they, themselves evolve as artists, and therefore work on breaking new ground for the rest of us.

The only other way is to say NO to formal training, as we know it that is, and stick with the system, or the framework that resembles a system that we have. You apprentice with a piercer, someone who has not only the time, but also the skills and the want to pass on information, and to make you the best that you can be. I realise that there are a lot of professionals out there today, who did no form of apprenticeship as such, for when they began there was no industry as such, but times have changed. As has been discussed before piercing has undergone one hell of an upsurge, both in popularity, and in focused attention of the public. They are quick to jump on both the good and bad bandwagons that follow us wherever we choose to push it. The problem with having a 'piercing shop on every corner' is that you have to find piercers to fill them. Yet again, this has become a case of profits before safety. A few years ago, the shops were few and far between, and with the exceptions of a sad few, responsible artists who knew what the fuk they were doing staffed them. If you went in and asked to get a 'whatever' piercing, they usually, and I repeat usually had a clue of what you were on about. If they didn't, they would say so, or at the least the ones that I have had dealings with did. They were not comfortable doing something that they had not done before, researched well, etc on just anyone.

This has changed. I have seen, in the last few weeks to be precise, an overabundance of surface piercings. I am yet to see one that has been done well, or does not look completely fukd up. This is the dilemma we face. To train the piercers professionally, and try and rid the world of ignorance and the like, thus causing a shrinking of the industry. A rise in "backyarding" (as with tattooing), or to keep going the way that we are going, and try to institute a series of guidelines that everyone agrees to, and try to police them. I guess what I am trying to say is, some sort of self-regulation. I know what you are saying; "It won't work!". And I believe you there. It is sad but true. If we begin a process of self regulation, then the industry starts to suffer due to petty infighting, and cases of "He hates me, that's why he shut me down", or "That guy..? Where does he get off telling me what to do!" Does this sound familiar, or am I being irrational..?

On the subject of being charged for malpractice..? I am not quite sure how to address this one, as my grounding in medical law is a tad on the shaky side. As for run of the mill piercings, that have been performed by a responsible piercer, on a willing piercee, in approved facilities, following set approved guidelines, then I feel no. If it was the piercer's fault, wholly and solely, then I would have to say yes, but as many of you know, piercees, especially first timers, will fiddle/play/touch etc their piercings and lie to your face at the same time. But in the case of it being the damage that was inflicted, i.e. breaching the duty of care that the piercer has to his client then yes. Maybe this will help sort out the shit from the pile. On the subject of malpractice as it is concerned with major mods, and by major I mean implants, beading, scallpeling, large gauge genital work, subs and the like, I feel that the client should be fully aware of what he/she is getting themselves into, have a great deal of experience with the piercer/artist in question, and by no means let the first idiot who will do it do it.


young mod enthusiast, staff member of Modified Mind.

My opinion on this question stems from the fact I consider every piercing a pseudo-medical procedure, and I believe that appropriate care should be taken as such. I think that every piercer would benefit from a regulated, and mandatory, training program in anatomy and pathogen transmission at the bare minimum. We train our doctors for six years, three years before they are even allowed to be in contact with a patient, and yet anyone can set up a "piercing parlour" with no qualifications or experience to make open wounds in people. I know there is a vast difference between the level of qualification needed for a doctor who must diagnose and treat people and a piercer, but surely it is foolish to have no mandatory training at all?

Obviously I can't speak for America, but here in England, there seems to be very little presence of any controlling authority over piercers and tattooists, and I hope this is a situation which is rectified in the near future. If these courses covered the basics of both subjects, and were required before any person was allowed to pierce, perhaps it would be possible to stop places such as Claire's Accessories or jewellers piercing ears. I think most people would agree that this would be a good thing, as long as the regulations were set up by people with actual experience of the business, not some dry government authority dedicated to clamping down on "people mutilating themselves". Until then, I think common sense has to suffice, and in reality, people should know better than to get pierced somewhere purely because "it's cheap" or "there's no waiting".

As for the malpractice issue, I think that we live in a culture of blame. If our operation doesn't have the desired result, if we slip on a pavement, perhaps if our piercing gets infected, we often look for someone to blame. That said, I do believe that better regulation of the industry could eliminate many incidents of malpractice. Alleged incidents should be divided into two categories: negligence or "acts of god". Obviously, negligence is a serious issue, and the piercer responsible should be warned, fined, or after gross negligence, 'struck off', in the same manner as a doctor. Acts of God, on the other hand, are a different issue. Any piercing can become infected, and more often than not the fault lies with the piercee. I think that both of these types of cases should be dealt with by internal regulation. After all, piercing is a significant industry these days, and its regulation should not lag behind its development. Internal regulation seems the best option, as piercers could receive a fair hearing by their peers, not a random judge with very little idea of the factors involved.


mod enthusiast, assisted in Loco interview for Modified Mind.

Ok, I'm going to answer this "scientifically".

In my humble opinion, I would consider piercings a "medical procedure" and with that in mind, it should be treated as such: therefore I think that mandatory training would be a good idea.

First, it would allow a new piercer to learn the proper safety/sterilization techniques and to make sure the piercing area is as clean as possible.

Secondly, it would allow for the piercer to know how getting pierced felt (I have heard that one program for piercers had each student get a piercing from another student). In my opinion, a piercer should have some piercings: a non-pierced person doesn't have an idea what to expect as far as a reaction to the needle getting inserted or the sensations (or in some cases the "OUCH!" that somone might yell).

Third, if a piercer went through a mandatory program (provided it was long and detailed and had a mandatory final exam to make sure that they knew what was necessary to pierce) -- they could get a diploma certifying them to practice safe piercings.

As far as what the consequences would be for malpractice... Hmmm... That is a good question. You could argue that each person that gets a piercing signs a waiver. I think that is too vague of a question because there are too many things to factor in. Malpractice based on a piercing could be placement, infection, wrong jewelry, etc.

I would have to say that there cannot be a definite answer to this: no matter what you would say, it all boils down to the person getting pierced. If placement, you could argue that the person had the opportunity to tell piercer they didn't feel it was placed correctly before the needle inserted.

If infection, it could be argued that the person did not properly keep their piercing clean.

If jewelry, it could be argued that the individual wanted specific jewelry (and that the piercer assumed that the person knew what they were in for).

However, if a piercer had an infection (something that could be transmitted by not taking the correct safety precautions) that is a completely different situation.

If a piercer knowingly allows for unsafe piercing practices to cause a person to get an infection then that would be where I'd have to say that liability would solely be on the piercer and would be something involving a major legal battle. Obviously, one of the end results (I would think) would be that the piercer wouldn't be allowed to pierce again. Honestly, if you think about it, if a piercer follows proper safety procedures there should be no question of safety and sterility when doing a piercing.

I know I may seem harsh in my opinion of this, but when a person goes to a piercer they expect to have a piercing; they do not expect to have something transmitted to them from their piercer. And if you reverse the roles: your piercer wouldn't like to get anything from you so the piercer would want to make sure proper safety techniques are maintained.

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