A Melbourne-based tattoo artist who pioneered eyeball tattooing has supported calls from a leading medical body to ban the eye-watering procedure in Australia and New Zealand after rampant malpractice.
Melbourne-based practitioner Luna Cobra, who has tattooed the eyes of hundreds of clients worldwide, told The New Daily he backed the calls by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.
It follows the NSW’s government’s review of the Public Health Amendment Bill to deem it an offence for a person other than a medical practitioner to tattoo the human eye ball.
The high-risk procedure involves permanently changing the colour of the white part of the eye or sclera using coloured dye that can lead to infection, intense pain and permanent vision loss.
“People are not being advised about the risks and dangers and this [procedure] is now being offered by a handful of people that have damaged a lot of people,” Mr Cobra said.
RANZCO ophthalmologist Dr Daya Sharma told The New Daily those performing eyeball tattooing aren’t trained to do surgery around the eye.
“I must emphasise this should be banned [across Australia and New Zealand] and there is not a good reason to do it.”
The Bondi Junction-based practitioner likened eyeball tattooing to “torture” after watching amateurs perform the procedure in a YouTube video.
Dr Sharma said many patients had not been properly anaesthetised and took serious risks such as coloured dye leaking into the back of the eye and damaging the retina, retina detachment, eye infection, chronic inflammation and blindness.
He explained there were medical indications for tattooing the eye, such as cornea tattooing to create a pupil, but this was usually in the context of an eye that was already blind.
When asked if the procedure was safe if performed by an ophthalmologist, Dr Sharma said he didn’t have concerns about his technique but would not perform an irreversible procedure with risks that outweighed any benefits.
NSW Parliamentary Secretary Scott Farlow announced the review of the NSW Public Health Amendment Bill at the Legislative Council on the 13 September this year.
Eyeball tattooing was first regulated eyeball in the state in 2016 amid public scrutiny.
Mr Farlow said the report did not recommend prohibiting eyeball tattooing, but recognised the procedure as an “extreme form of skin penetration” involving risks above those of infection control.
“Eyeball tattooing can lead to serious damage of the eye and even blindness,” Mr Farlow said.
It’s unclear how common the practice of eyeball tattooing is, with malpractice procedures receiving media attention such as Canadian model Catt Gallinger, who raised public concern after temporarily losing sight in one eye.
Mr Cobra told The New Daily he had experienced “zero problems” performing eye tattoo procedures for about 20 years.
The body modification practitioner said he was not a licensed surgeon and would not perform the procedure anywhere it was not legal, and was not “doing it for the money”.
However, he said he was coming from a “very different place” to many other tattoo artists offering the procedure – once undertaking pre-medical courses at university and born into a family of surgeons.
“These people don’t have a team of surgeons advising them. I didn’t do this for money and I’m happy for this to change hands.
“People have the right to do whatever they want to do to their bodies, but it should be done by licensed surgeons.”