The Supreme Court has ruled for the first time that tattooing people without a medical license does not constitute a violation of the medical practitioners law.
In the decision, handed down on Wednesday, the top court’s Second Petty Bench turned down an appeal by public prosecutors over a suit against Taiki Masuda, a 32-year-old man who tattooed three people. It finalizes a high court ruling that overturned a district court verdict fining the man ¥150,000.
Prosecutors had argued that tattooing people can be considered a medical act, and that tattooists must therefore have medical licenses. Masuda did not have a medical license.
The Second Petty Bench defined medical acts as “actions considered medical treatment or health guidance that could cause hygienic harm if not done by doctors.” It then said that “tattoos require artistic skills different from medicine, and that it cannot be assumed that doctors do the act exclusively,” concluding that the practice is not a medical act.
In a concurring opinion, Presiding Justice Koichi Kusano said that a new law should be made if there is a need for legal restrictions to prevent risks from tattoo procedures.
In the summary indictment, Masuda was charged with tattooing three female customers at a studio in the city of Suita in Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, between July 2014 and March 2015 although he did not have a medical license.
Osaka District Court found the man guilty in September 2017, saying that there was a danger of tattoos causing skin disorders, and that tattooing is a medical act.
Reversing the decision in November 2018, Osaka High Court said that tattoos have decorative and artistic features, and that they are not for medical purposes.
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