An Australian court recently banned a 20-year-old mother from breast feeding her 11-month-old child because she been tattooed since giving birth. Judge Matthew Myers determined that by getting tattooed Ms. Jackson (A pseudonym used by the court to protect the mother's identity, it's the Australian version of "Jane Doe") put her child at an "unacceptable risk" of HIV infection.
“Looking at perhaps the benefit of the child, who is 11-months old, breastfeeding, as opposed to what would be a lifelong issue in the circumstances where the child contracted HIV, it is the view of the court that it is not in the best interests of the child that the mother continue to breastfeed,” Myers said in the ruling.
One would think that a judge would look into every possible piece of evidence and seek out the opinion of medical experts before preventing a mother from continuing to breastfeed their child, but in this case Myers did not. After hearing an appeal from Jackson, the Family Court of New South Wales has overturned the ruling. The full bench of the Family Court determined that Myers based his information on internet searches that should not have "been relied upon."
"Judges must not mistake their own views for being either facts not reasonably open to question or as appropriately qualified expert evidence," Judge Murray Aldridge said speaking on behalf of Family Court. "That those views may have been obtained by the judge searching the internet compounds, rather than alleviates, the difficulty."
It appears that this is another case where the stereotypes associated with tattooing superseded the facts. The negative stigma of being tattooed, a stigma that still exists albeit with less prevalence than before, likely played in to the ruling. Considering the extremely high hygienic standards that tattoo shops maintain and the requirement of single use needles the possibility of a person contracting HIV while being tattooed is basically non-existent. The most galling thing about the original ruling was that Jackson was tested for HIV and was negative—after the negative test the issue should have been closed.
We're happy to say that in the end Jackson will be able to breastfeed her child once again. Hopefully this case, and the swift appeal of the initial ruling, will prevent similar mistakes in the future.