Here is one for all the paramedic legal eagles out there: You arrive on the scene of an unconscious 80 year old female. During the course of your patient assessment you notice a tattoo on her chest stating “Do Not Resuscitate”. Do you have to honor that request?
We have discussed DNR orders here quite a bit, but this case is a bit different. Not that 80 year olds should be prohibited from getting inked, nor that people should be limited in their decisions on the extent to which their lives should be prolonged, but seriously? A DNR tattoo?
That is how an 81 year old grandmother from the UK, Joy Tomkins, has chosen to make her last wishes known to emergency responders and hospital personnel. That’s not all. Tomkins also had the letters “PTO” tattooed on her back along with an arrow directing viewers to her front. Click here for the photos.
Tomkins was quoted by Mirror.com as saying: “I do not want to be half dead, I want to be fully dead. I’m afraid the medical profession will, with the best of intentions, keep me alive when I don’t want to be alive. …I don’t want to lie for hours, months or even years before dying. I do not want to end up as a vegetable. I don’t want my family to remember me as a lump. That is why I got the tattoo.”
The news article reports that a British General Medical Council spokesperson said most UK doctors would ignore the tattoo. I would have to agree. Here in the US she would still have to comply with what ever state law requirements were applicable for a DNR request to be honored. The tattoo alone would not cut it. However, the tattoo should serve as notice to check further.