Tort Law

New Jersey Woman Sues Surgeon Over Temporary Rose Tattoo

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A New Jersey woman has sued the doctor who operated on her back for a herniated disk–not because of any issue with the surgery, but because of what she found on her front the next day: a temporary red rose tattoo.

Recounts the Philadelphia Inquirer: “The patient discovered the tattoo below the panty line the next morning, when her husband was helping her get dressed to go home after the operation.”

Her lawyer, Gregg Shivers, says plaintiff Elizabeth Mateo was “extremely emotionally upset” about the unauthorized body decoration apparently created while she was under general anesthesia. She was reportedly lying on her stomach during the back surgery, which was performed at Virtua Memorial Hospital in Burlington County. Mateo is a clerical worker in her mid-30s, according to Shivers.

But Robert Agre, a lawyer for Steven Kirshner, 51, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, says his client–who doesn’t deny that he made the tattoo on Mateo, and has previously left what the newspaper describes as “washable marks” on other patients–says he has done this to improve their spirits after surgery, the newspaper reports.

No one else has complained, and “what’s offensive about this complaint is that it suggests something he did was intended to be prurient, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Agre says. “It was intended just to make the patient feel better.”

Art Caplan, who chairs the medical ethics department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says there is a legal basis for the Camden County Superior Court suit, if it is true that a doctor left an unauthorized mark on the patient’s body. “You cannot do something like this even as a joke,” he says.

Related material: “Dentist Wins Toothy Coverage Case”

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