The Audacity of Bodily Autonomy

Surgeon sued for giving anesthetized patient temporary tattoo. The tattoo was not at all medical in nature. She had surgery for a herniated disc and the next morning discovered a rose tattoo had been placed on her abdomen below her panty line. The doctor doesn’t deny doing it. In fact he claims he does this with all his patients to lift their spirits after surgery. Now, the really interesting (and disturbing) thing about this situation is how people have reacted to this woman’s decision to sue. The comments on this article are just the tip of the iceberg. Many people seem to be outraged by this woman being willing to sue this doctor for marking her (however temporarily) in her pelvic area without her permission.

We’ve all gone the rounds about the politics of choice as it applies to reproduction. But the idea that women’s bodies are public property doesn’t stop there. Catcalling, comments on weight, comments on hair or makeup from strangers are all just symptoms of a larger societal delusion that women’s bodies are a commodity first. Somehow we’ve gotten stuck in this idea that a woman’s valuing of her body as a part of her self comes second because her first role is to belong to the world at large. Women who refuse to accept that paradigm and insist on being recognized as people first whether it be by yelling back at catcallers, refusing to let strangers touch them, or filing suit when they feel they’ve been violated are then castigated for having the temerity to think that they can dictate what happens to their bodies. Apparently we’re just supposed accept these “lesser” intrusions and not take steps to reclaim that sense of safety because nice girls know their place and don’t delude themselves that they have a right to feel safe and comfortable.

Well, I’m with the women who yell back, who walk away, who press charges and file lawsuits. Because it is past time we got past this idea that being nice = being a willing victim that never complains. I don’t want to live in a reality where people think marking an unconscious woman without her permission is a-okay because it’s temporary, or he didn’t mean any harm, or there’s no proof that he “actually molested her” so she shouldn’t seek legal recourse. I know I’m talking crazy, but wouldn’t be nice to live in a world where women were viewed as people first? Where people didn’t blame the victim, but instead celebrated her willingness to fight back?

Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America. Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.

67 Responses

  1. Wow, there is just NO WAY that is okay! Good grief.

  2. Thanks for writing about this.

  3. As I said on your sf_d post about this, there are people who are members of religious and cultural groups with very strong prohibitions against tattoos. So not only was this “prank” icky and inappropriate, it was potentially culturally insensitive as well.

  4. “[H]e claims he does this with all his patients to lift their spirits after surgery.”

    WTF?!?!

    This is totally random, but I swear it’s related …

    Okay, so, serial killers came up during last night’s dinner conversation with an acquaintance. (We were on our way to see Dark Knight, and she’s a forensic psychologist.) She mentioned a bunch of research pm psychological profiles of surgeons vs. serial killers.

    From old Psychology Today piece (yeah, I know, it’s PT, but whatever): “Consider surgeons and their work. It’s unthinkable to put your hands in the warm blood of another human’s gut. Even with rubber gloves on. Who’d want to do that? But surgeons get over it.”

    Ummmm … alright I’m soooo not saying all surgeons are loopy. I’m just saying, you know, this Steven Kirshner dude (the rose tattoo-loving surgeon) might be. ;-)

  5. Yeah I saw the sf_d post and the expected responses. It was interesting that most of the people who thought that she should just get over it were female. There were people who defended the surgeon that cauterized his initials in a woman’s abdomen too. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the violation is permanent or not, some people seem to think that its hunky dory so long as it doesn’t cause pain. Heaven forfend a patient be able to trust that her doctor isn’t feeling her up while she’s unconscious.

  6. It should be astonishing to me that so many people, especially women, are defending this doctor’s actions, but it’s not. Many women have internalized the idea that they’re bodies aren’t entirely their own, and it’s obvious here.

    But, honestly, it doesn’t matter it it was below her panty line or on her goddamned elbow. She went in for surgery and that’s all that should’ve been done. He had no right to mess around with her body in any other way, and I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t have done any such thing if it were a male, and even if he did, it wouldn’t have the same implications.

    In short, I agree with your thoughts.

  7. I cannot believe this. Ugh I am sweating angry right now. If he did this to a man and the man sued, everyone would cheer the man on for defending himself against the homosexual violation of the doctor- but a woman is supposed to think it’s ok- especially because “children use these tattoos and can easily wash them off.” If it’s ok for children, it must be ok for women. Ohmygod I hope this woman wins so much money and he gets put on suspension for a long time. How fucking dare he.

    Karnythia thanks for writing this and your added commentary is excellent.

  8. Also- no one knows what this doctor does when he is putting on these tattoos. If they can’t find witnesses, then I guess he did it when he was all alone and how do we know he isn’t molesting them and then, like a serial killer, leaving his mark? The psychological impact of having this done to your body- being turned over and having your gown lifted…. just the not knowing factor would make me vomit, literally vomit with feelings of being so violated. Ugh!!!

  9. […] is not remotely acceptable: Surgeon sued for giving anesthetized patient temporary tattoo. The tattoo was not at all medical […]

  10. […] Source:Comment on The Audacity of Bodily Autonomy by davka Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  11. Just stumbled across this blog when I googled “loud black woman”. awesome. (stuffbiglawassociateslike.wordpress.com <– we’ve even linked to you in one of our posts. Isn’t being angry great?)

  12. […] to utilise someone else’s again. This is a post from someone who has no end of eloquence. Here’s her post. She’s right on the button. Surgeon sued for giving anesthetized patient temporary tattoo. […]

  13. O.M.G.
    I hadn’t heard about this. Just…..amazing.

  14. Holy CRAP. This is outrageous! I agree with davka, I would be sick if this happened to me. That doctor was WRONG, full stop. How about he just does his job well and lets that be enough of a lift to the spirits of his patients? wtf.

  15. This is enraging. I remember waking from twilight aneasthesia after a surgical procedure and finding my pubic hair shaved radically, and feeling a sense of violation. I realized after the fact that, of course, a laser procedure is probably safer and easier on a hairless area. That’s fine, but I felt weird that they didn’t tell me everything they would do to prep my body.

    I cannot fathom waking with a temporary tattoo that I didn’t ask for. I CAN see me enjoying a doctor telling me- “Hey, I have these tattoos I can do for fun, it’s a silly thing my patients enjoy to diffuse the seriousness of surgery. Pick a rose, or butterfly, or tribal thing, or none.” As a tattoo fan, I’d get a kick out of that. WITH CONSENT.

    Doing it without asking is so inappropriate I can’t imagine. It’s verey telling that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to people.

  16. […] Doesn’t Start With the Body, Then Where? Posted on July 24, 2008 by Brown Shoes The Angry Black Woman wrote about a story where a surgeon is getting sued for putting a rub-on tattoo on the […]

  17. In addition to everything ABW said so eloquently, which is really enough, or should be, this is really bad practice because it reminds the patient of something no one likes to think about: that for a time, s/he was unconscious at the hands of someone who could have done anything to her/his body. Normally, doctors try not to remind you of this. During surgery, various nurses and doctors might come in and get a look at your naked hiney and whatnot… they go out of their way to avoid making you think about all the stuff that could have happened during those hours that are lost to you, but not these people you trusted with your life.

    Of course, when the doctor’s “class” is privileged compared to the patient’s, this gets even creepier.

    Two more things bother me about this: the assumption women need their little spirits lifted. I once had a surgeon obsess on leaving a tiny scar, to the point that when he had to do a second surgery (for a legit reason), he removed the old scar “while I was at it” and made it even tinier. This made it take a bit longer to heal, which annoyed me – the old scar had been fine with me. I think scars are interesting, and had made up a whole story about kicking some guy’s ass to explain it *g*. But he believed women freak out over having scars, therefore the important thing in his mind was a tiny scar, and the important thing in my mind was healing fast so I could get back to my life.

    The second additional thing that bothers me is the vanity at work here. I get that it takes some arrogance and a bit of aloofness to chop into another human being for her own good. It’s a daunting task, and frankly, I want a surgeon who takes pride in his/her work. But when they burn initials into people or tattoo them, that’s making the surgery all about the surgeon and his/her glory, not the patient and his/her well-being.

  18. and let’s not forget the widely accepted practice of having medical trainees practice pelvic exams on (unconcious) surgical patients. there was a lot of publicity around this issue a few years ago (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A36990-2003May9) which has largely died down, but the practice continues.

    I’ve looked for information on whether this practice disproportionately affects women of color but haven’t found anything– if anyone else has info I’d love to hear.

  19. […] access, and to what kind of health care? This post by Karnythia at Angry Black Woman and this one at Having Read the Fine Print both address in […]

  20. :0

    wow…. really creepy and not okay doc. Made my skin crawl to read that. Its almost like he graphically made her some kind of notch in his belt. Vomit! So effed up. Thanks for writing about this Karnythia, and well said. and i’m with you, more power to her and all resisters to the notion that women’s bodies are public domain.

    and good point davka, i think if the doctor had done this to a man, that people wouldn’t even question that this was a violation.

  21. […] i think if the doctor had done this to a man, that people wouldn’t even question that this was a violation.

    Or if the doctor had been a woman tattooing unconscious men. My god!…a woman violating a man’s bodily autonomy?! Why that just goes against Nature! The uppity, power-mad bitch! Take her medical license away!

    Sigh. Women and girls will never have full, free agency over our lives (or even full citizenship), if our bodies and our choices concerning them, continue to be fair-game for public and legal scrutiny.

  22. Completely unacceptable and she should definitely sue if she feels a need to, least of all because it’s unprofessional and was done without her consent and WTF she could have had an allergy too. It’s up to her how offended or disturbed she should feel when it comes to something that concerns her own body. But I don’t see it as gendered as all of you do – not that SHE shouldn’t view it as gendered, because that is absolutely her perogative and context is important, but that I don’t think HE did because he does it to all his patients. “If it were a man doing it to a man,” well, he’s done it to men too unless he’s only done surgery on women. Doesn’t make it less wrong, I just don’t think he had that kind of motive. For the very, very little that’s worth.

    The pelvic exam and cauterizing the initials, THAT is just freaking disturbing, the former more than the latter. But both would make me feel a lot more violated, if it were me.

  23. I was absolutely horrified when I read this elsewhere. And the responses from the “general public” remind me of how hard it was to learn to move past “nice”.

  24. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he doesn’t do this to men. What is a man going to say when he finds out that a male doctor put a temporary tattoo under his “panty line”- under his underwear line? Freak out- that’s what. Freak out and yell “Fag” and then everyone would sympathize. I would lay money down on the probability that this doctor doesn’t pull this shit as often with men. Men would be offended by the violation and the doctor just would not do this to a man as easily as he does it to women- guaranteed. The news isn’t reporting the gender of former patients because they just don’t think it matters, but I would love to know because I am sure men are safe.

  25. Ignoring the consent issue for a moment, why on earth would he put the tattoo under someone’s underwear?! If he wants to ‘cheers patients up’ by putting stickers on them then he could stick a tattoo on their arm. Putting one in a place that you can only see it if you’re naked pretty much proves that this isn’t about ‘joviality’.

  26. Doctors and most professionals are an arrogant lot who are used to thinking they are humorous, deeper, or more educated than the rest of us. I remember the case of the doctor who took a healthy baby from a poor rural white couple with five healthy kids and exchanged it with the sickly baby born to a young white sophisticated couple because the mother was dying. They have their own “reasonings” and they think they have a right to do anything. It’s the arrogance of professionalism. Doctors, lawyers, social workers….they all have it. Not sure how gender-based it is, though. Cause female doctors, female lawyers, female social workers are just as belittling of folks who they consider “less educated” than they are. It’s the arrogance of professionals. – C

  27. This story makes me fucking furious, as do the “what is she so upset about?” comments. I hope she takes this guy to the cleaners.

  28. Carole McDonnell, I take issue with your assertion that all doctors (and other professionals) are arrogant. There are plenty of arrogant docs, sure, but they are a diverse group of people like any other, and don’t deserve to be damned over the actions of a few. I find this story as horrifying as many of the other commenters here, but it doesn’t change the respect I have for my future profession: medicine. Not every doctor comes from a history of elitism. I’ll be a doctor myself in a few short years (I’m in med school), and while I will clearly be well-educated when I finish, that is only one small piece of what forms my world view. I’m also a woman, a person of color, an individual who grew up in a family that struggled economically. Most of my family has no more than a high school education. The mere fact that I will have an M.D. after my name doesn’t damn me to an arrogant judgmental existence.

    It is very difficult to gain admission to med school, and even more difficult to complete. The training process that doctors go through requires a great deal of personal sacrifice, though of course the rewards (financial and otherwise) are also great. This means that some people, upon finishing their training, have a big ego and sense of entitlement, while others have gained much humility and compassion. Often, people are somewhere in the middle. Doctors are just people too.

    —–
    I think this patient should def. sue the surgeon. He obviously crossed a line. I don’t find this amusing at all.

  29. Hello from Shakesville…

    This is absolutely outrageous. Thank you for blogging about it. And thanks for reminding me not to just be nice!

    (gonna go walk down the street for lunch in Downtown Brooklyn and NOT be nice to all jerky catcallers and starers now…)

  30. This makes me want to throw up.

  31. Karnythia,

    You KNOW that’s crazy talk. Folks would have to start putting on women’s shoes…And you know how tight and pointy those things can be. :)

    Seriously, putting aside the sexism of the reaction to this. In what world, would even a drunken stranger be able to do this without getting a severe beatdown??

    …And this is a professional, who was paid to ONLY do his job.

    Yeah. Sueing is the right answer.

  32. Hi, I came here from Shakesville, too. This is just nuts. But in response to this comment:

    “Or if the doctor had been a woman tattooing unconscious men. My god!…a woman violating a man’s bodily autonomy?! Why that just goes against Nature! The uppity, power-mad bitch! Take her medical license away!”

    you know what I think, though? (glad you asked.) Rather than being read as “uppity bitch,” I think it could as likely be read as “silly, girly doctor decorating her patients and not taking the Manly Art of Surgery seriously enough. Take her medical license away!”

  33. Word to your entire post. Thanks for blogging about this. Ugh, it is so disgusting! Good for her, suing.

  34. If he wants to put tattoos on his patients so bad, why can’t he ask them when they’re out of surgery and can consent to it? And if they agree, put it on their arm or hand. Not their privates!

    The comments of “shut up and get over it” don’t surprise me. I’m sure those same people who are saying that would do a major freak-out if it happened to them.

  35. Here from Shakesville. Thanks so much for writing about this. I heard about this over the weekend and I was so appalled at the doctor’s behavior and really glad that the woman decided to sue.

  36. Hmm. I don’t know, I think this was a tough one.

    Because he was supposed to be there, after all. Admittedly, tattoos are a big thing to some people, but to others, they’re not. Suppose the stitches were rainbow colored or the bandage?

    I really don’t think this is an issue of what’s appropriate conduct; it’s an issue of norms – being whimsical vs not – clashing.

    If anything, it certainly should have been explained better to the patient. That sort of missing detail is where I think the doctor went wrong. They need to be up front and honest with a bill of items if need be. Every incision? Yes. Even the whimsical add-ons? They should at least have the right to refuse it.

  37. Rather than being read as “uppity bitch,” I think it could as likely be read as “silly, girly doctor decorating her patients and not taking the Manly Art of Surgery seriously enough. Take her medical license away!”

    That works too! :-)

  38. Crissa, I don’t know if you noticed this in the article, but the surgery was on her back. That means that he had to flip her over to add the tattoo to her panty line – he most definitely wasn’t “supposed to be there”. And a tattoo is not at all like rainbow stitches. Stitches or bandages are things which are a necessary part of the medical process – you need them to ensure that your wound will heal. A tattoo is unnecessary, and more than that, in this instance it’s downright sexual. The fact that the tattoo was a rose (instead of a more innocuous smiley face, for instance), and the fact that it was placed below her panty line make it clear that it wasn’t just there to “cheer her up.”

  39. @Crissa: Even after trawling through the hundreds of comments on the sf_d post about this, it still staggers me that anyone thinks this isn’t an issue of appropriate conduct.

    A surgeon’s job is performing surgery. A patient gives consent for surgery to be performed. It is no less than critical that when one person is in complete and utter authority over another – another who is unconscious, for God’s sake – that person be utterly clinical and fastidious and does the job and nothing more.

    This is a huge breach of trust.

  40. Because he was supposed to be there, after all.

    Huh? Since when does surgery for a herniated disk involve being anywhere near the belly underneath the panty line? I’m no doctor, but I sincerely doubt they go in through the front. It’s completely a creepy intrusion into an area of her body he had no business being, and one that is moreover very much private. And in any case, what in the world gives you the idea that using her body as a doodle pad without her express permission is in any conceivable universe even a vaguely acceptable thing to do? My mind, she is boggled.

    Suppose the stitches were rainbow colored or the bandage?

    I forget, what part of the operation or the aftercare is the temporary tattooing? Oh, right, none. He used this woman’s body as if it were his property, to mark in any way he saw fit, and he did so in an area that is both explicitly sexual and unrelated to the actual surgery he performed. It’s unconscionable, and I hope he pays through the nose.

    My guess? This woman’s courage will bring others forward. The guy’s a full-on creep who’s been emboldened by getting away with it, but the karma train is a comin’. Please keep an eye on this story, I’m betting it’s going to get a lot better.

  41. Susie- YES! Absolutely, her courage is going to get other patients discussing how they actually felt when they were little helpless patients up against a big time surgeon.

    Lalaroo, the fact that it was a rose is very significant. Right on for addressing this. It was in the back of my mind somewhere, but it didn’t really surface until you said something. Roses are erotic flowers- used for romantic gestures and used in poetry in reference to sex and lovers.

    Crissa, so because this woman didn’t like it that the doctor turned her over and opened her gown and rubbed a sexually suggestive mark on her body- it means she isn’t WHIMSICAL?! Wow. Does she lose her fairy wings and magical hat for not wanting this creep to help himself to her body? I can’t believe you reduced this issue to a matter of whimsical vs not.

  42. Crissa–
    I don’t think this has anything to do with norms because I don’t think it has all that much to do with tattooing. I don’t have any cultural prohibitions against tattooing and actually love body art, but I would freak out if I woke up from back surgery with a temporary tattoo near my lady parts. The tattoo is just the vehicle for creepiness in this case. The creepiness is the problem, and the creepiness is that he put something on her body without her consent and it had nothing to do with the surgery at all, AND it had sexual overtones (a rose placed under the panty line).

  43. more and more
    I think of vigilantism to the rescue

    rather than taking it to a patriarchal court to turn and twist around till it blames the woman.

  44. I’m surprised, yes, surprised at the folks who don’t understand that what this doctor did was extremely inappropriate regardless of the alleged therapeutic value. Some of the doctor’s female patients may feel better after spying the tattoo on their bodies but, in any case, the doctor should have asked for and received their permission before proceeding. The doctor’s behavior is bizarre and he should be reprimanded and told to stop.

  45. It will never end until men no longer rule the world.

  46. I am never, ever, ever going under general anesthesia. Ever. The relationship I have with my tattoo artist is a million times more trusting than any relationship I’ll ever have with a doctor and I know she would never do anything to my body that I didn’t ask for. Not so doctors.

    thesciencegirl: You say there are doctors who aren’t arrogant bastards. I promise you, if there are, I’ve never met one.

  47. This is terrible and yes, you don’t know what else he’s done if he’s alone. I remember going into the operating room when I had surgery and looking up at the group of surgeons in their masks without knowing that besides the surgeon I was familiar with, that they were going to be there. I recognized one that was actually under investigation for child molestation of a patient but he came from wealth and a sizable donation to the hospital bought silence. I tried to say something but the anesthesia is very strong. and within seconds, you’re out. But it was upsetting.

    There’s some good doctors out there and some not so good and bad ones. I think sometimes too they have to hide their feelings. I remember going to a doctor for a leg injury and the scan was suspicious for cancer so I had to have more tests which at the time was pretty shocking out of the blue. The doctor tried to reassure me but after I left, another woman who knew him had asked him why he looked upset and he said I had a young girl come in with a sore ankle and I think I’m going to have to tell her she has cancer.

    I found that out a bit later on, after further tests showed that it was simply hairline fractures that created an unusually hot scan for some reason.

  48. This has less ot do with sexism than it does with informed consent. It is a breach of professional ethics and he should be sued at the very least.

  49. You say there are doctors who aren’t arrogant bastards. I promise you, if there are, I’ve never met one.

    I definitely have, and there are doctors I totally respect, but the supposed colleagues of this guy who are commenting on the thread in the first link above are definitely giving their profession nearly as bad a black eye as their friend has. It’s very plain that their attitude is, STFU, bitch, my buddy can do whatever he wants and if you don’t like it, tough shit.

  50. Susie

    What makes you think that a commenter claiming to be an MD is in fact actualy an MD?

  51. Aw geez, thanks for the heads-up, miffedkit, although if I need surgery at some point that won’t make it any easier!

    As far as doctors being arrogant assholes, and fine with violating a woman’s trust, I still remember being with a friend giving birth earlier this year. She had a birth plan in place that specifically said not to clamp or cut the umbilical cord until it was done pulsing (much healthier for the baby that way). The baby was born and they asked the father if he wanted to cut the cord and he said, “No, don’t cut the cord,” the mother said, “Don’t cut,” I looked at the doctor as he was holding the scissors and said, “Don’t clamp and don’t cut,” and he looked me right in the eye and cut the cord.

    They filed a complaint with the hospital, but I personally think they should have sued for assault.

    On the other hand, I was just at a friend’s home birth with midwives, and she was respected and supported through the whole process. I wrote about it here: http://www.canow.org/canoworg/2008/07/the-womanizatio.html

    This issue is just totally on my mind right now because of this news story and those two different birth experiences.

  52. Lea, you said, “thesciencegirl: You say there are doctors who aren’t arrogant bastards. I promise you, if there are, I’ve never met one.”

    I’m really sorry (and sad) that you feel that way. I hope you can find a good, compassionate doctor that you respect and trust; they’re out there. I know you’re not alone in feeling that way. I’ve had bad experiences as a patient as well, with doctors who are dismissive or condescending, and it pissed me off, but I have also had really great, warm, competent doctors. I am respectful of and invested in every patient I see, and I learned how to be that way from some great mentors. Good doctors do exist. But I know that when you’re a patient, vulnerable, scared, sick, and reliant on another human being, a bad experience with a doctor can be devastating; I completely understand that.

  53. […] politicians supporting reproductive health bills. But I’m still ticked off about it, and Karnythia’s post on bodily autonomy and Renee’s musings on patriarchal control over women’s fertility have me […]

  54. Not sure if my original comment was deleted (as far as I can tell, it was pretty clean and civil. I don’t see why it would’ve been given the ax). So I’ll try again:

    It’s no secret that we live in a pretty litigious society; where everybody is suing everybody else. So this comes at no suprise. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that this woman deserves the right to file a lawsuit. But before I’m ready to jump on the side of “Team Victim”, I’d like to see exactly what dollar amounts she’s talking her. If it’s a figure that will ensure the end of the doctor’s career, it will be hard for me to as strong a proponent of the “victim” as I’d like to be.

    Bodily manipulation of a non-medicinal nature was DEFINITELY a bad call by the doc; even if it has been pardoned by all of his previous patiets. Also, I suspect that the tattos’s placement also represents an issue of submerged sexism; as he somehow assumed that it would be OK to use the pelvic area for his female patient (as opposed to the arm, hand, or some other innocent location). As such, punishment is necessary. I get that. But his intention has to be considered. If it’s true that he temporarily tattoed people to “raise their spirits” (as far as I can tell, this has gone uncontroverted) it’s hard to demand his head on a platter.

    I won’t go as far as some of the commenters from the article. Those jokers were just crass. But if Mateo goes for the juggular and tries to ruin this doctor’s life over something that can wash off, it would be damn near impossible for her to garner any sympathy/support from me.

  55. […] originally found out about the following story while over at the Angry Black Woman’s joint. I posted a comment that was not published; and I tried again. I forgot exactly what I said […]

  56. Imagine what else he did to her body while she was out?

    I mean that tattoo is no different than a notch on the belt.

    He violated her, because he could.

    However, there’s precedence for doctors and dentists being punished for assault (often sexual) on anesthetized patients.

  57. its richard from fem.men.ist again… i have been reading this thread and just been getting more sad, angry, nauseous.

    Tiggrrl, your testimony around the birth of your child and the arrogance/entitlement of the doctor broke my heart.

    Radfem, that was also really upsetting to read about you going under feeling so unsafe.

    What comes up for me as a black man, was remembering driving around with a camcorder in case police pulled me over. This was before Rodney King. I mention that because perhaps recording devices can provide a sense of safety in these situations? whether one informs the doctor that you will require to have the procedure recorded, or whether you hide a recording device in your hair or something. what do people think?

    and if i am sounding like a typical Mr. Fix It, please call me out on that shit.

    peace,
    richard

  58. I am pretty sure I have been raped under anesthesia – while the surgeon’s colleages watched. I could never prove anything – I was too out of it to be believed. Besides- It had all ready been established by several doctors (to one another and to my face) that I was a dirty whore – otherwise, why was I always going in for pelvic exams complaining of pain when no one could find a problem?

    Two years later, my Mom’s doc did exploratory surgery on me. Turns out I had endometriosis. That last doc felt maybe I had waited “too late” to have babies and was sick from that (I was 22), but he was NICE to me, and so I chalked it up to a cultural difference. It felt that good to have someone treat me like a person.

    Despite the one nice man, it took 2 decades for me to trust doctors again. I hope this woman sues and I hope she wins. This is egregious, it’s not new for doctor’s to treat women (especially those of us who are “classed” diferently from them) as their property while in their “possession.” It has to be stopped.

    Good for her!

  59. i saw this post on another blog today and i came back here to leave comments because like many of you, i’m appalled at the comments where people feel nothing really serious has been done. i agree with everyone here who feels there’s been an injustice. my comments from the other blog post are “i hope she sues the pants off of him. literally! the nerve! she came for surgery, not an explant of a tatoo to lift her spirits. maybe he should have a biker-type person (as was mentioned above) engrave a tatoo on his penis. i’m sure he’ll think twice then before he does it again. he was WRONG!

    what if she had had an allergic reaction of some sort, which may have even killed her? would that be ok because he was only trying to lift her spirts? it was unprofessional, unauthorized, a violation, and unethical.”

  60. Apparently a couple of comments hung in moderation for a while.

    What makes you think that a commenter claiming to be an MD is in fact actualy an MD?

    A number of commenters on the thread claim to be doctors who know the doctor in question and are highly protective of him in their responses. Certainly this is the Internet, and they could easily be lying. But there’s no particular reason to be certain they are, unless you think it’s terribly unlikely for doctors to be arrogant and obnoxious.

    And if you do, I can refer you to a woman I know who’d had several children by a young age, entirely by choice. However, this apparently didn’t sit well with her ob-gyn, and immediately after having given birth to her youngest child, while she was still under the influence of anesthesia and somewhat incoherent, the ob-gyn pressured her, in tandem with her now ex-husband, to allow him to tie her tubes. That’s right, she was coerced into making a decision that would affect her fertility for the rest of her life on a snap basis while completely at the mercy of the person pressuring her to do so. She now totally regrets this, not least because she is remarried and will very likely be unable to have a child with her second husband.

    Bodily manipulation of a non-medicinal nature was DEFINITELY a bad call by the doc; even if it has been pardoned by all of his previous patiets.

    I would question whether it’s truly been pardoned, or whether many people have felt powerless to object. See the anecdote above — my friend completely hated what was done to her, but never attempted to seek redress because she simply didn’t want to deal with the fall-out. She doesn’t pardon what was done to her, she just doesn’t have the emotional wherewithal to demand justice for a number of reasons, not least because it would create discord with the extremely combative ex who was also involved.

    But his intention has to be considered.

    Actually, no it doesn’t. In the first place, the completely gratuitous sexualizing of the tattoo makes it seem very unlikely that his intention was good, as does the fact that he applied the tatoo when no one else was present. If everything was so above board, why not do that when nurses were around? However, even if we give him the benefit of every doubt, what has to be considered is the effect of what he did on the woman he did it to. If you can’t get how his having marked her with a reminder of her total powerlessness during a period she’ll never be able to recall, and his ability to have done whatever he pleased to her during that time, is extremely traumatic, you’re just not making any attempt really to put yourself in this woman’s shoes. Or, more accurately, her hospital gown.

    But if Mateo goes for the juggular and tries to ruin this doctor’s life over something that can wash off, it would be damn near impossible for her to garner any sympathy/support from me.

    You know, somehow I think she’ll manage to carry on.

  61. […] of bodily privacy by a physician Via The Angry Black Woman: Surgeon sued for giving anesthetized patient temporary tattoo. The tattoo was not at all medical in […]

  62. I’m appalled by the comments here that don’t find fault with this doc’s actions – and sorry, that MD behind your name does nothing to impress me.

    He was out of line and should be punished for his actions. Our bodies are ours alone not some etch-a-sketch for his amusement.

  63. Susie- yes yes yes

  64. This reminds me of a case a while back, where a surgeon CARVED HIS INITIALS into the abdomen of a c-section patient.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D06E2D7153CF934A15752C0A9669C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

    I have a horrible fear of any surgery, and stories like these, plus my one experience, don’t help.

  65. But his intention has to be considered.

    Do let’s.

    If everything was so above board, why not do that when nurses were around?

    And why do it around her crotch area? If the idea was to “lift her spirits” why not the back of her hand, somewhere she could look at under almost any circumstances – rather than somewhere she can only see when she gets naked? Why does he want THAT to be the time she sees the reminder of him?

    I consider his intentions and find them suspect. I’m on her side.

  66. He is a perfect example of why male doctors are not to be trusted alone with female patients. He is leaving his mark. Why? I would wonder if he did not do much more and leave this just to let her know he could and if time allowed, did. He is creepy.
    Problem is even female surgeons will turn around and leave you alone with males while under anesthesia.
    Many women are raped and never know.

  67. miffedkit: there was a huge kerfluffle over this very issue in Portland, Oregon — the teaching hospital (OHSU) regularly has (I would like to say “had” but I don’t think this has been stopped) med students practice pelvic exams on unconscious women. It skeeved me the HELL out. My understanding is also that this was much more prevalent in women receiving care through the Oregon Health Plan (health insurance for low income families), and that there was possibly some kind of form one could sign to have this not happen (yeah, right) if you knew to ask for it. At the time, I knew someone working as a prenatal home visitor with many WOC, many from out of the country who had no access to translation services or any kind of advocate, who were receiving care at OHSU. The impression I got was that if a woman was uppity enough to demand nobody sexually assault her while she was unconscious that the level of care she received would suffer, and more than that, most of the women who would be facing this would probably not even know how to demand that it not happen.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure this came to light when women were having a high rate of pelvic infections following surgery and someone(s) wondered what the hell was up with that. The thought of this makes me want to puke, and never go to the doctor again, and possibly become a vigilante.

    In light of this, I think the tattoo is even more upsetting, because as many have pointed out it serves as a reminder that you really don’t know what the hell some creep did to you while you were unconscious.

    Bleah, remind me to never need surgery…

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