Putting the Rose to Bed

Okay, as Denialism’s lawyer, let me get to the issue of the rose tattoo.

A medical procedure is a battery. Patients consent to it, thus allowing the doctor to engage in even invasive touching without liability for the battery. The scope of consent is key, however. Many individuals have a rough sense of consent; they think that if consent is given to one thing, anything goes. But, the law takes a much more nuanced approach to consent. Thus, a patient does not consent to all forms of touching, just ones that are consistent with the procedure authorized.

Was applying a rose tattoo within the scope of consent? Many people get off track by focusing on the temporary nature of the tattoo, but why should that fact matter? The key here is whether the touching itself is authorized. Whether the touching caused a permanent mark goes to damages, not to the consent issue.

It is clear that applying the tattoo, temporary or permanent, is a battery. And a doctor engaged in such pranks can end up paying through the nose for it. Take the facts discussed in Woo v. Fireman’s, where Dr. Woo (real name) applied temporary teeth to his patient (who was also an employee) while under sedation. The teeth were boar tusks, and thus made the patient/employee look very funny. Dr. Woo took pictures, removed the teeth, finished the procedure, and then showed the pictures to the patient/employee. The touching did not physically harm her, and the teeth were temporary. When presented with the pictures, she never came back to work again.

Dr. Woo settled the case for $250,000. That might seem unreasonable, but from the patient’s perspective, there is an incredible amount of anxiety surrounding general anesthesia. Apart from the medical risks, there is the fear that while unconscious, anyone could do anything to you, and you may never learn what happened. Therefore, any deviance in that type of situation can cause years of suffering and anxiety.

The tattoo was a bad idea. They should have known better. And if a patient can recover $250,000 for temporary false teeth, don’t you think a similar or larger award could be appropriate for a below-the-underwear-line application of a temporary tattoo?