Not all tattoos are good. By good I don’t mean the quality of the artistry, but what the tattoo itself actually represents. Yes, we’re all aware that this is the case: from Nazi imagery to gang symbols, there are plenty of tattoos that anger and offend people. It’s an unfortunate aspect of the tattoo world, but one that’s so miniscule it typically isn’t even worth acknowledging. Sometimes however, we’re forced to acknowledge these sorts of tattoos and not always at the most opportune times.
Most recently in Germany, a surgeon was faced with precisely this dilemma when he noticed that the man he was to perform a thyroid surgery on had a tattoo of an imperial eagle perched atop a Nazi swastika. The surgeon was Jewish and refused to operate on the man.
‘”I can’t operate on this man. I am Jewish,” the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung quoted him as saying. Leaving the patient anaesthetised, he found a senior colleague, who then performed a successful operation.
The 46-year-old Jewish doctor, who works at hospital in the city of Paderborn, explained later that his conscience prevented him from treating people he suspected of having neo-Nazi sympathies.’
Sufficed to say, this issue has now caused quite a controversy in Germany and beyond. Many people are very critical that this doctor could back out of his duties because of the political beliefs of a patient, while others applaud the doctor for sticking to his personal and ethical convictions. In Germany, all images of the swastika are banned and anyone caught displaying this imagery can face up to three years in prison.
It’s not that often that tattoos are at the centre of a political controversy. Typically the main controversies surrounding tattoos have more to do with people’s narrow minded views and opinions of what a tattooed person or tattooist is like. In this instance however, the tattoo itself does tell us the politics of the barer, but is that enough to refuse them medical aid? It’s a tough question indeed.