Do Not Resuscitate Tattoo Dilemma

Advanced Dermatology, PC Blog Do Not Resuscitate Tattoo Dilemma

Do Not Resuscitate Tattoo Dilemma

A critically ill and unconscious 70 year old male patient arrived in a Florida emergency room in December of 2017 with a tattoo across his chest that read, “Do Not Resuscitate” with his apparent signature.

The patient did not carry an identification so the hospital officials were unable to contact any family members to see if he previously had made a formal do not resuscitate request.

The hospital was unsure what to do in such a situation. They could not contact anybody to see if he had an existing do not resuscitate request, but on the other hand, it would seem that the patient was trying to make it clear that he in fact did not want to be resuscitated.

In the end, the ethics committee decided to honor the dying man’s tattoo request. Their reasoning was that the tattoo was an expression of authentic preference. Later, social workers found the patient’s “out-of-hospital” do not resuscitate order from Florida’s Department of Health.

This case emphasizes the difficulty in and complexity of a patient’s last dying wishes. Perhaps the patient had regrets over his tattoo choice, which is not uncommon. Therefore, he may have changed his mind later on and no one would know.

There was a case in 2012 regarding a 59 year old patient with multiple conditions who was admitted to the hospital for a lower knee amputation. Across his chest there was a tattoo that read “DNR.” In his personal information, he made it clear that in fact he would like to be resuscitated, if need be. When inquired about his “DNR” tattoo, he said that when he was younger, he was playing poker with some friends. They made a bet that whoever lost would have the letters “DNR” tattooed across his chest, regardless if this was what the individual wanted. Therefore, because he lost, he was the recipient of the “DNR” tattoo. He did not think that his tattoo would be taken seriously and did not proceed to have the tattoo removed, even though he was advised to by hospital personnel.

Kerry Bowman from the University of Toronto said that if the decision had been up to her to decide whether to respect the dying man’s tattoo wish of “Do Not Resuscitate” or not, she would respect the wish. Her reasoning is that a person would have to go to great means to make their wish clear and obvious to anybody.

Do not resuscitate forms are not always readily available and “a standard tattoo may be a readily accessible method for communicating a strongly help care preference,” stated associate professor Melissa Garrido at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in New York City.

At Advanced Dermatology P.C., we offer a wide variety of laser treatments for tattoos. Sometimes people want their tattoos lightened for the purposes of having a new tattoo designed onto that same area. Other people want their tattoos completely removed for multiple reasons. There are individuals whose tattoos do not respond to laser treatment. At Advanced Dermatology P.C., we have lasers such as Pico, Cynosure, Versipulse, and Medlight which help remove tattoos, even those which did not respond well to their first laser treatment.

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