Should there be imposed waiting periods for heavy body modification, facial tattoos/surgical mods/implants/etc and what, if any, checks should be run during this waiting period (psych eval, health checks, etc)?  
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Forum Administrator at Painful Pleasures.

In a word, no. But, since we've been asked to elaborate on the reasoning behind our answers, here goes.

Since modification is such an individualized ritual, there are as many reasons for wanting a mod as there are people receiving them. When it comes down to it, "heavy body modification" is simply a term used for those modifications that don't fall necessarily into the mainstream cultural acceptance.

The men and women who perform these modifications, sometimes at their own risk (as in the case of Todd Bertrang), should not be held responsible for the way that society will view their client. While doctors who practice plastic surgery are held accountable for the physical and psychological health and safety of the clients, those are people who have chosen to take on that responsibility. By imposing a waiting period, complete with psychological evaluations and health checks, the law would be literally forcing body modification practitioners to become a sort of pseudo-mother for a client. It is not the responsibility of a practitioner to counsel, nor to be responsible for ensuring health. Being of sound mind and body is the job of the client, as is the honesty that entails when questioned about it.

It is also important to note that there are already standards amongst body modification practitioners regarding health and mental stability -- for instance, not tattooing/piercing/implanting/cutting/etc. a person when in obvious ill health or state of mind. The practitioner will, if concerned at all with human kind, ask the client if he or she is aware of the dangers and repercussions that the modification has the potential bring about. It is not, however, the job of the practitioner to ensure that the person's medical charts are in order.

Ignoring for a moment the absolutely ludicrous notion of making artists baby-sit their clients, we'll move on to the actual waiting period itself. Now, a waiting period would have to have a set time....one week? Two weeks? Five months? For the most part, those who are interested in body modification didn't start out with, "I have no piercings or tattoos, but I'd like a full nullification". It's something that a person immerses oneself in over a period of time, taking on the repercussions and credits that the modification will bring. He or she will play with the idea, perhaps research the procedure and after-effects. This is what I, personally, would deem as a "waiting period"...the period that one is simply pondering the idea of a "heavy" modification. And since the artist often has a meeting session with the client, there is a sort of "waiting period" already in place, regardless of laws and imposed time frames.

The process of modification is one that is entirely up to the individual. The idea of a "waiting period" would be, to many, just a simple hindrance to them. In fact, it may be such that the individual would seek another place in which there are no regulations...and not just of waiting periods, but of sanitary practices and safety, as well. While this may be a sort of far-fetched theory, it is no doubt one that would arise out of an enforced waiting period.

Of course, there is one more arena that I must throw in here, before I wrap it all up...DIY modifications. While I am an ardent supporter of DIY and at-home bod-mod procedures (I currently sport both DIY and at-home work), I recognize the dangers of them both. For those who are looking for a modification and don't want to wait for the "waiting period" to pass, DIY and at-home procedures look more and more tempting, and the appeal of having a professional do the modification becomes less so. Now, I may be a sort of conspiracy-theorist here, but I find that a sort of law to govern this would only lead to more at-home procedures, which leads to a higher risk for the person involved. What I mean to say here is: Why make a person wait to get it done right by a professional when he or she can do it at home...today? I realize that there are those people, like myself, who still cling to at-home procedures, but those are for more personal (or perhaps more financial) reasons.

For the type of person who has done the research, is in good health, of sound mind, then the waiting period is plain....well, silly. For the person who goes in too hastily and regrets it later on...well, at least it was done right.


Piercer and manager of The Edge Tattoo in Rhode Island, in the process of organizing a Boston based suspension group.

IAM Page: goddam

In a perfect world or in one where there were universal rights and wrongs and things were as cut and dry as all that, yeah. That'd be wonderful no practitioner would ever have to wonder if they just potentially did something that might harm the client or if the act itself facilitated some kind of condition or illness. But until we live in such a world where a practitioner can place a cap on the clients head, read their mind and they come up clear of disease, serious mental illness or other issue my answer is a shaky No.

Let's touch on waiting periods, I've never tattooed a face/hand/neck etc let lone removed anyone of any sort of body part they could potentially miss later on in life, but if someone came in to see me and said, OK I want to tattoo my face. You better believe I'd be sending them home to think about it for a week or so, I don't particularly care how much of an imposition it might be or if someone scoffs off in a huff. Yes people have the right to do with their bodies what they want, but at the same time on the practitioner's side of things, the practitioner has to live with knowing that this impulse decision could lead to all sorts of negative consequences. An imposed waiting period and by that I mean imposed by the artist, not by the state or any outside third party is a good way of weeding out the impulse decision makers, the people that aren't 100% serious about getting what they want done and possibly the people who may have a moment of lucidity in a day or two to follow "oh gee, I cant find work with this nautical star on my forehead" among other things would be a horrible after the fact realization I imagine. Ask our good friend David Clinger, or hell anyone with highly visible mods for that matter. Being visibly modified changes your life. So some waiting periods, I'm personally for, practitioners deserve to feel safe and secure about the life altering services they are performing... most of us have consciences y'know. (I realize this imposes one person's comfort over another's convenience, meh consider the source) And if someone is really serious about the very heavy (i.e. surgical) or very visible tattoo (i.e. Face, hands or extensive visible) within reason the person I'm sure has thought about this for some time and a short waiting period won't sour anyone into the hands of back alley basement scratchers and cutters.

Health checks, I don't really understand why a lot of people find this unethical. Hospital staff has access to your medical records; it would be nice if as a piercer or tattoo artist I was privy to someone's relevant medical history, or at least communicable diseases. However I realize most people do not consider tattoo artists and body piercers on par with health professionals, go figure, and I believe it goes both ways. However, if dentists and doctors and nurses, even plastic surgeons, are granted access to relevant parts of someone's health records, I believe piercers/tattoo artists should be also allowed to access that information if they choose to. However how one would go about making sure that information wasn't abused and treated the way it should, I don't know.

As far as mental illness and psych history goes, maybe something very short term, like discharge in the past 30 days or something pertaining to the VERY recent past. Having people denied access to heavy body modification for a mental health hiccup in their youth would be ridiculous. However, unfortunately this all ultimately comes down to judgment calls and there are still a lot of people in the industry that refuse to or simply cannot competently judge some of the most basic and intrinsic parts of their job, career and lifestyle that I would have a hard time trusting a lot of practitioners being given information and authority that would determine the final decision so until we can pick and choose who gets this kind of information and so on, practitioners will have to go about their business very cautiously and mindfully as I'd like to hope most of us do anyway. And clients, collectors and the like will have to just judge for yourselves whether whatever your planning on getting is right for you, your life's situation past present and future and whether your shiny new tattoo, piercing or trepanation is a serious health risk. Yup, we're stuck with exercising reasonable judgment. Anything else including additional checks and so on would lead to increased legal liability should someone fall through the cracks and that information was indeed available this would quickly lead to more people thinking they could win the litigation lottery. With out clear and very definitive laws which are in reality best not even given thought to most of these checks are infeasible and realistically would only be further restricting honest competent practitioners in what procedures could be offered needlessly.

Having said that, until every city has an old town portion and its matching dynamic only body modification not prostitution... or at least AND body piercing etc... (Sin City reference, apologies.) I think the only acceptable limitation practitioner or client induced is a waiting period for heavier stuff if it's even applicable, it's not a fail safe, it's not a guarantee and its sure not 100% but in some situations it may be a good practice. However, certainly not the norm that people are getting extreme/heavy mods all over the place and are running to doctors and surgeons to reverse these procedures (no, we see that more with smaller range tattoos) and there certainly isn't an epidemic of elderly or the chronically ill seeking out artists and practitioners for extensive work. We have biocide sprays for a reason, we have autoclaves for a reason, and every piercer/tattoo artist (and etc) should be operating under the assumption that every client is a walking convention of every blood borne pathogen known to man and then some, and acting accordingly from there.


former staff member of BME's QOD.

IAM Page: saram

The decisions to impose these requirements fall on two parties: the practitioner and the client.

I can see the value of a waiting period before getting a heavier or more visible modification -- a time to think, to work out the details, to consider what the future will hold. Some practitioners do impose a waiting period, of sorts, requiring a client to return more than once and discuss the modification before it is performed. If a practitioner does not believe that a client should be undergoing a specific procedure, then that practitioner should advise the client to wait or turn him or her down entirely. A waiting period is not unreasonable, but it should be the decision of a studio or practitioner. The government is in no position to impose such a period, especially considering that these procedures are frequently the topic of proposed legislation or are completely illegal in some areas.

I see no problem with a general health check -- a basic exam and a bit of lab work to determine that a client is an ideal physical candidate for a procedure that may tax the body immensely. But any psychological examination is another thing -- it is impossible to completely assess whether an individual is physically and mentally prepared to make a significant change to his or her body and life. The emotions and reasons come from within, and outsiders may not understand them.

In addition, the medical community is strongly biased against body modification, especially within the mental health fields. If a prospective client went to a doctor to discuss the possibility of a subincision, silicon implants, facial tattoos, or other procedures far outside of social norms, I cannot imagine a doctor that would see that as healthy or acceptable. It seems like a direct path toward involuntary commitment (to prevent the "self-harm" that such procedures represent to many in medical fields).

All in all, the main choice is the client's own. It's his or her body, his or her life. The rest of the choice falls to the practitioner to assess whether this individual is a good candidate. If the practitioner desires a waiting period or other requirements, it is reasonable and justified.