Westley Wood claims copyright for the material contained in this site and is solely responsible for the contents of this presentation, a critique of Part 1 of a 3 Part Article by Claire Chalmers published in the Journal of Infection Prevention, 2009.

Title Page -- Preamble  -- Preface  -- Synopsis -- Exposition


Part 1 of Claire Chalmers' article to regulate and control the practice of tattoo and piercing was published in May, 2009.  When Part 2 came out in August I was surprised when she referenced W Wood (myself) and dismissed my statement as I advocated that the reduction of infection rates should be the goal of regulations and a way to measure success. She claimed my view was unrealistic because, she argued, there are many factors that contribute to causing infection. Though I wrote that there is plenty in the medical literature about superficial wound healing, and there are indeed best practices to promote healing, she states that though aftercare may ( ! ) play a role in healing and infection control, it has not been studied. I was surprised to read that, especially as that statement went unchallenged by the peer reviews of the Journal of Infection Prevention.

Tattooists the world over know things no outsider knows. Lifelong experience in any occupation creates an expertise, based on day after day, year after year observation. In tattoo and piercing (T&P) we also have learned things, one being that infections are rare, and the causes that disrupt the healing processes, infection being but one, originate outside the studio, after the fact, not by practitioner practices. Anecdotal cases to the contrary are published precisely because they are uncommon. We should not need to be reminded that anecdotal evidence is not sufficient to determine causation.

Chalmers, to her credit, admits that the risk of infection is small, citing the lack of association with practitioner practices by independent study and by the US Center for Disease Control. She objects to using infection rates as a standard of measurement for successful intervention because, in health care generally, (her words), in spite of "successful" interventions aimed at reducing infection rates, they do not show a decline. Nevertheless, she advocates the use of the threat-of-infection as the "key" justification to achieve  expanded control and regulation of T&P practices.

If this were a health science paper it would be easy to expose the errors, but it speaks policy advocacy based on a functionalist view of the West, premising that only government regulation can stop the spread of T&P. This sociological-political interpretation drives her argument centering on the government as the defender of and embodiment of  Western Civilization values.

Her view can be illustrated by a quotation from Keith M. MacDonald, in his book  The Sociology of the Professions. Though he is describing the history of functionalism in defining the role of professions. if we merely substitute "government" in place of "professions" my point will be made.

 In this quote MacDonald is referencing Durkheim's (1957) view of professions and professional ethics as being the moral basis for society.

...These he believed [professions] would save modern society from the breakdown in moral authority, [i.e., from labour and occupational groups threatening the breakdown in moral authority] which in his view threatened it. The development of this view ... in some cases, reach a level of uncriticality that is hard to credit. Carr-Saunders and Wilson (1933:497), for instance, saw professions as being one of the most stable elements in society which inherit, preserve and pass on tradition ... engender modes of life, habits of thought and standards of judgment which render them centers of resistance to crude forces which threaten steady and peaceful evolution ... The family, the church and the universities, certain associations of intellectuals, and above all the great professions, stand like rocks against which the waves raised by these forces beat in vain.

And then MacDonald points to Johnson (1972) from (Lynn, 1963:653) and other functionalist view that ...

Our professional institutions are ... an important stabilizing factor in our whole society ... helping to maintain world order.

In Part 2 you will therefore properly understand the effort of Chalmers to factor out T&P and showing that only government has the power to control the T&P menace.

Chalmers' explains that since the young no longer regard T&P as taboo, the older generation (policy makers) who are entrusted to hand down our Christian heritage through the generations, need to enact legislation to reverse the trend. This she says can be accomplished by a complex series of regulations based on expanding the concept of health to included psycho-social health risk, for example, the need to pre-screen and psycho-evaluate clients beforehand concerning psychological issues, such as: should she cover a tattoo at a wedding vs. self-expression, or the negative effects of post-dissatisfaction stress. A significant issue to Chalmers is the risk of social consequences (perhaps because of content or  placement) that may hinder upward social mobility.  Not only clients, but she goes a step farther declaring the need to  screen "tattooed"  practitioners, because having tattoos shows they are risk-takers and likely to take risks with the client's health and safety. Together with monitoring, education, and stringent enforcement the new regulations will reduce these psycho-social health risks and therefore reduce  the popularity (incidence) of T&P.

Part 2, addresses, expands, and details the wider health risks.

Part 3 presents the basis for believing that a single national set of rules and regulations can work.


This writing examines an article written by Claire Chalmers, Senior Lecturer, University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton Campus, Almada Street, Hamilton ML30JB
published in the Journal of Infection Prevention, May 2009 VOL. 10 NO. 3, pages 102 - 5


Comments, corrections and objections can be sent to Wes Wood, wwood36@gmail.com who is solely responsible for these comments.