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Ophthalmologists disappointed at NSW government’s lack of action on dangerous eye ball tattooing

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) has today reacted with disappointment following the release of the NSW Government’s Report on the Statutory Review of the NSW Public Health Act 2010.

“RANZCO is very disappointed that the NSW Government has decided not to act on RANZCO’s recommendations to reduce the significant risks associated with the practice of eye ball tattooing by non-medically trained practitioners,” said Dr Andrew Chang, Chair of RANZCO’s NSW Branch.

“We appreciate the NSW Government’s acknowledgement of the need to broaden the definition of skin penetration in the Act to include procedures that penetrate the mucous membrane, and the agreement to carry out ongoing review of the practice of eye ball tattooing. However, we feel that this is an inadequate response to address this critical issue. The eye and its covering membranes are delicate structures which must be preserved to prevent blindness or intractable double vision. Skin damaged by poor tattooing can be repaired by skin grafts, restoration of vision is much more complicated.”
In their submission to the consultation, RANZCO highlighted the serious risks involved with eye ball tattooing including bleeding; perforation of the eyeball and infection within the eye, leading to permanent blindness. RANZCO points out that, given severe risks involved, it is insufficient to regulate mucous membranes, ocular mucous membranes, in the same way as skin. As such, RANZCO is calling on the government to reconsider introducing tighter regulation to ensure that such a high risk procedure is only ever carried out by a registered medical practitioner.

RANZCO points out that inadequate regulation is particularly dangerous as it can lead the public to believe that practitioners are in some way approved by government, when this is not in fact the case. Limiting the performance of such dangerous procedures to medical professionals helps to protect the public and makes it clear that the practice is unsafe in untrained hands.
“Eye ball tattooing is a complex procedure requiring specialised technique and medical expertise and there is a place for it in treating certain medically indicated conditions, such as specific eye abnormalities,” explained Dr Chang. “However, while we recognise that the instance of non-medical eye ball tattooing is rare in NSW, appropriate regulation is necessary to protect the public from practitioners who put people’s wellbeing and sight at risk.

“The statutory review provided the Government with an opportunity to ensure that appropriate measures and limitations are implemented to reduce health risks associated with a procedure that is, in most cases, unnecessary and extremely dangerous to a person’s eye health. Failing to act on this matter puts people at increased risk of irreversible eye damage and poses a risk to public health and safety.”

For more information or to arrange an interview contact Emma Carr or Laura Safaj at RANZCO on 02 9690 1001 and media@ranzco.edu