Indiana close to becoming 2nd state to ban eyeball tattoos
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana could become the second state to effectively ban the unusual practice of tattooing eyeballs, after a committee on Monday unanimously backed a proposal whose sponsor calls it “the grossest bill of the session.”
Republican Sen. John Ruckelshaus of Indianapolis says he is not aware of any health-related issues that have arisen in Indiana from the process, in which ink is injected into the eye to make the whites change color. However, he wants Indiana to join Oklahoma, which banned the procedure in 2009, to proactively avoid the “extremely dangerous” complications that could arise.
Ruckelshaus proposed the measure following a flurry of news reports last fall about a Canadian model and body-modification enthusiast experiencing major complications after getting her eye permanently colored a shade of purple.
A final vote in the Indiana House is the next step for the bill, which the Senate approved last month and the House Public Health Committee advanced Monday on a 10-0 vote.
Ruckelshaus’ proposal would prohibit what is known as “scleral tattooing,” unless the person performing the procedure is a licensed health care professional acting within the scope of their expertise. But that sets a threshold so high — further complicated by professional ethics guidelines, which obligate medical providers to do no harm — that it amounts to an effective ban of the procedure.
The bill would allow for fines of up to $10,000 per violation and authorize Indiana’s Attorney General to investigate any possible violations.
“Everybody I’ve talked to personally about this issue is adamantly and totally opposed,” said Dr. Eugene Helveston, professor emeritus of ophthalmology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
Catt Gallinger, an alternative model from Ottawa, said at the time that she lost part of the vision in the swollen, misshapen eye and was facing the prospect of living with irreversible damage after she allowed someone to dye her right eye.
Ruckelshaus, along with others who testified on Monday, say they are not aware of the practice being popular in Indiana.
Still, Helveston said the bill was a “no-brainer.” He added that the American Academy of Ophthalmology strongly recommends against the procedure in which could go wrong and thus cause pain, discomfort, loss of vision, blindness and loss of an eye.
Republican Rep. David Frizzell of Indianapolis, who is sponsoring the bill in the House, said by passing the proposal, Indiana could become a model for other states when it comes to protecting people’s health.
The bill, however, is not without its critics. Republican Sen. Michael Young, of Indianapolis, argued that such ban goes against a person’s inherent individual rights, regardless of whether it’s a good idea.