All ayes on eyeball tattoo ban

February 23, 2019 GMT

OLYMPIA – Washington moved a step closer to banning eyeball tattoos Friday as a key committee sent the proposal to the full House.

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee voted unanimously to prohibit tattooing the sclera, or white part of the eye, after approving an amendment to include physicians in the ban. The original bill banned tattoo artists from the practice, but would have made an exception for physicians “within the scope of their practice.”

Aaron Lee, an ophthalmologist, told the committee earlier this week scleral tattoos can result in damage, infection and even the loss of an eye, and there is no medical reason doing it. The panel agreed with an amendment from the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, removing the exception, and allowing a physician who performs an scleral tattoo to lose their license.


The procedure apparently is rare in Washington, and Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said supporting the bill was “harder than you’d think as a good libertarian.”

“You want to think that someone would be smart enough not to let somebody do this to their eyeball,” DeBolt said. But if the subject goes blind from a tattoo, the state may have to pay for their care, he added, and voted for the ban.