Q. Does one transgress the prohibition of etching a tattoo, if one does not have the intention of writing or illustrating any words, symbols or forms at all. A dot will be tattooed in a specific place, simply to be able to identify a person, that has severe memory issues and can get lost. Or the mark of a dot may be placed for recognizing a specific place in the body medical purposes. Is that permitted?
A. Shulchan Aruch (Y.D.180: 2) rules that one may place “afar mikleh” on a wound. Taz (ibid 1) explains that even the ashes of a (coal) stove which are hard and leave a mark that remains, are permitted, since the wound and its scar also stay and prove that it was done for healing purposes.
Poskim disagree if the mark left by the ashes equals a tattoo mark as their tinctorial effect may not stay forever. (See Ribon and Rashi – Makos 21a and Avoda Zarah 29a, however, Ritva and others ibid, consider it to be only a ma’aras ayin prohibition, as it seems to be a tattoo). They also disagree if the prohibition would be Biblical or Rabbinical. See question 2707 above.
Regarding marks for identification, as was once upon the time used on slaves, Shulchan Aruch and Remah (Y.D.180: 3) rule that it is prohibited on the onset (lechatchila). Today, there are far better methods of searching and identifying an elderly individual or child prone to get lost, such as bodily attached electronic devices.
Horav Shlomo Miller’s Shlit’a opinion is that it would only be permitted, if there is an actual concern of saving a life as in the case of tattoos done for pinpointing the location for the radiation to be given on cancer cases.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as advised by Horav Shlomo Miller Shlit’a