Tattooing for breast reconstruction
2 May, 2011
I recently underwent a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. The second stage involves creating a new nipple and then tattooing the skin around to match the areola of the other breast.
What are the halakhic issues involved? Is there a heter available for such a procedure?
There is a Torah prohibition against tattooing. Our rabbinic supervisor, Rav Yehuda Henkin, maintains that tattoos for breast reconstruction do not fall under the prohibition because they are restorative in nature and does not add to (or give the impression of adding to) what was originally there.
A halachic consensus to permit such procedures when the need is great has been building. Articles on the topic include “Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature: Medical and Cosmetic Tattooing,” by Rabbi J. David Bleich (Tradition 42:4) and “Halakhic Issues Presented by Breast Cancer,” by Naomi Englard-Schaffer and Dr Deena Zimmerman, our site’s medical supervisor (Tradition 41:4).
From the perspective of the laws of taharat hamishpacha, such a tattoo would not be a bar to mikveh immersion, since it is there for purposes of beautification and has no substance beyond its color.
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