I have had a number of surgeries in my lifetime, 14 to be exact. I can honestly say not once have I ever woke up and found a tattoo on my body after either surgery.

According to Elizabeth Mateo of Camden County, NJ, she can’t be as fortunate. She went into a Burlington County, New Jersey hospital for back surgery to repair a herniated disc and the day after the surgery while dressing to go home she noticed a temporary tattoo on her body just below her panty line in her pelvic area.

Mateo claims she has no idea how it got there. “Both her and her husband pretty much freaked out and they had no idea how it got there. She had been alone in the hospital, heavily sedated for pain the night before, said Mateo’s attorney, Gregg Shivers.

Mateo has filed a lawsuit in Camden County Superior Court against the doctor, Steven Kirshner, a board certified orthopedic surgeon, claiming he has violated her right to privacy. She is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

During the operation she was placed on her stomach so Mateo and her attorney claim that the tattoo was placed by the doctor sometimes after that which would mean it was while she was wearing nothing but her hospital gown.

The doctor doesn’t deny putting the tattoo on Mateo. He says he has used the tattoos before on other patients and a way to lift the spirits of a patient recuperating after a surgery. “Clearly he would not have acted in front of the entire operating room staff,” said his attorney Robert Agre. “What’s offensive about this complaint is that it suggests something he did to be prurient and nothing could be further from the truth,” Agre went on to say. “It was intended just to make the patient feel better.”

“He vigorously denies that any action of his was intended to offend the patient,” Agre said, noting that the marks the surgeon has left on his patients “are like children’s tattoos. Kids put them on themselves and they wash right off.”

Jan Barrett

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