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MOH defends tattoo guidelines

Published: 6:56PM Sunday December 03, 2006 Source: One News/Newstalk ZB

Health officials remain satisfied tattooing guidelines are strong enough even after a Wellington man came close to dying.

The man, believed to be 24-years-old, is in intensive care in Hutt City Hospital facing numerous skin grafts after an infection ate over 25% of his skin.

The man was admitted to hospital along with two others after undergoing traditional Samoan tattoos or pe'a.

The other two men have since been released.

The pe'a has been around for hundreds of years and those who choose to have them are well aware of the risks.

"You receive a lot of rules and if you disobey them then that infection will come in, and you gotta be really careful in how you walk and how you move," says pe'a wearer Willy Collins.

But while Collins' pe'a went according to plan, others have not.

In 2002 James Tui died of blood poisoning after he got an infection during a tattooing session.

Since then the Ministry of Health has set about strengthening the guidelines for traditional tattooing and says it has been consulting with Pacific communities and traditional practitioners to "bring these guidelines to their attention".

Collins believes that those who have the pe'a will not be deterred by the latest infection.

"It's a big thing for our culture and it's always been there....people have passed away through it because of infections...That's a responsibility that people know," he says.

Hutt City hospital says the man should soon be well enough to be moved out of intensive care.