William Burgess

Higher functioning developmentally disabled...

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...can they consent to a tattoo? I am of the opinion that they can't.

Someone came into my shop today and I felt ethically compelled to turn this person away. She was higher functioning in the sense that her intelligence level was high enough to say, have a job doing janitorial work with supervision. Her demeanor had me guessing she had the intelligence of an 8-10 year old. She knew what kind of design she wanted and where, but that was about it. The kicker was when she said..."I have permission"...and then pointed to her guardian who she had in tow. Not to hurt her feelings, I pulled the other person she was with to the side and explained that I cannot tattoo anyone who is not legally competent to enter into a contract( the release form).

Just wondering how others felt about this. In all honesty, there are some people who get work who are not playing with a full deck...earlier this week I tattooed someone who kept going on about how some unknown entity injected a tracking chip into his bloodstream and how his enemies are using satellites to track him and control his thoughts, even saying how he went into a hospital with a loaded gun because they fucked with his mind somehow. I just made sure any potential deadly weapons were out of reach and finished up. Maybe crazy is different though.

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...can they consent to a tattoo? I am of the opinion that they can't.

I think you're painting with too broad of a stroke here. I put myself through grad school working with developmentally disabled adults who were living in the community, but still needed a little extra help to make it. Some of them were the coolest, toughest, most awesome people I ever met and I'm proud to (still) count them among my friends.

I pulled the other person she was with to the side and explained that I cannot tattoo anyone who is not legally competent to enter into a contract( the release form).

That being said, there has to be a line drawn somewhere, and I'd probably draw it exactly where you did. "Are you you're own guardian? Can you sign a legal contract?"

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Interesting question. I'm not sure what the legal and ethical ramifications for a tattoo artist are and good for you for having a line. Still, as a person who works with youth who have a variety of mental health and developmental disabilities I do think they deserve as normalized of an experience as possible. My instinct is that if the request was for something tasteful in terms of content and body placement it would be fine to go forward with it. I'll be curious to see what others say about this.

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IMO you made the correct call. If they did not have a guardian and appeared competent enough to consent and enter into contract, then I would have made the tattoo. Being that they need the help of someone else to make decisions for them, they are most likely not aware of what signing a consent form means. They may not understand the permanence of their decision either.

For the record, I do not know any in depth information on developementally disabled folks. The above is strictly my opinion.

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...can they consent to a tattoo? I am of the opinion that they can't.

Someone came into my shop today and I felt ethically compelled to turn this person away. She was higher functioning in the sense that her intelligence level was high enough to say, have a job doing janitorial work with supervision. Her demeanor had me guessing she had the intelligence of an 8-10 year old. She knew what kind of design she wanted and where, but that was about it. The kicker was when she said..."I have permission"...and then pointed to her guardian who she had in tow. Not to hurt her feelings, I pulled the other person she was with to the side and explained that I cannot tattoo anyone who is not legally competent to enter into a contract( the release form).

Just wondering how others felt about this. In all honesty, there are some people who get work who are not playing with a full deck...earlier this week I tattooed someone who kept going on about how some unknown entity injected a tracking chip into his bloodstream and how his enemies are using satellites to track him and control his thoughts, even saying how he went into a hospital with a loaded gun because they fucked with his mind somehow. I just made sure any potential deadly weapons were out of reach and finished up. Maybe crazy is different though.

I wish all the bastards scratching up my 14-16 year old students asked themselves this question. I know it's a totally different issue than you raise here, but I'm so glad your ethics are in the right place.

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I wish all the bastards scratching up my 14-16 year old students asked themselves this question. I know it's a totally different issue than you raise here, but I'm so glad your ethics are in the right place.

Similar in the sense that they too are not legally competent to enter into a contract. This is my reasoning for rejecting the "with parents permission" tattooing, which is legal in HI.

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Similar in the sense that they too are not legally competent to enter into a contract. This is my reasoning for rejecting the "with parents permission" tattooing, which is legal in HI.

Exactly, I think it falls under the same rules around minors.

As for your earlier post about the guy raving on about guns and hospitals, I probably would not have tattooed him, but that's probably due to my knowledge of mental illness. It's possible he was manic or having some sort of episode and therefore, not in a proper state of mind (but not dangerous) to make healthy choices for himself (sporadic tattoos being an poor choice IMO).

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There are all sorts that walk through the door of any given tattoo shop at any time. Mentally competent perhaps, but does the artist want to really slap some ink on them?

I've seen them come in rambling while I was in the chair and the artist sighs in relief when they walk out. I've been there when someone that really don't want to tattoo is coming in shortly.

I've never really seen a tattoo on someone with a developmental problem and it might be a moral issue for the guardian to deal with. The shop made the right decision.

Rob

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One time a guy called and said he wanted to get tattooed, we had tattooed his son and all of his friends to the point of being on first name basis with them. He showed up his other son who we hadn't met who happen to have down syndrome, just to look around the shop. While the father was talking to my boss, I answered some questions from his wife and son. As far as I can tell the kid had two tattoos, a blazer logo, and some other logo from a WWE character done by god knows who. He talked about wanting to get a snake, and i answered all this questions, but the whole thing was a little weird. The whole family was tattooed, and I get why he wanted to have tattoos, he wanted to fit in, there was no good reason I could give to these people why their son couldn't get tattooed, although the whole interaction made me a little uneasy. Like I said I answered the questions he had, didn't push the issue and never heard anything about him wanting to get tattooed, although the rest of the family comes in from time to time to get tattoos.

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years ago I had tattooed a few different developmentally challenged people, and at first its a little different and odd,but after your done they always seemed more happy and satisfied than your usual customer. Tattoo's can and do bond us together in many different ways. these "special needs" people need to feel special and ok , just like everyone. I have also tattooed a few physically challenged people ,who have passed a long time ago , they to deserved that same respect, to feel special and ok.

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