Interpreting DNR Tattoos

The article, “An Unconscious Patient with a DNR Tattoo”, peaked my interest when it was presented in class.This article discusses a 70 year old man who arrived at the emergency room unconscious.  He had “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” and his signature written across his chest. Since they could not find any written documentation to legally support his tattooed DNR request, the staff providing his care was challenged with the the ethical dilemma of whether or not to honor the tattooed request.  They decided to continue life saving care until the legal documents were found, which confirmed his wish of natural death. After reading the article, I wondered about what would have happened if the tattoo did not reflect his current feelings towards the DNR request, which sometimes happens when a person gets a tattoo earlier in their life.  Even a tattoo an individual got a year ago, they might feel different about it today, or even tomorrow. This led me to the article “DNR Tattoos: A Cautionary Tale”, where a person got DNR tattooed on their body because they lost a bet, not because they actually wanted doctors to follow the DNR procedures. Luckily, the doctors did not honor the tattoo in that particular situation. I agree with the doctor’s decisions to not follow the tattooed requests because this could potentially lead to a new definition of consent that goes beyond legal written documentation.  The consent that would be associated with tattoos on the body might be difficult to clearly define.  Tattoos have the potential to be inaccurately represent a person’s current wishes and I believe that they should not be considered proper written consent. Like many types of consent, DNRs have varying levels that define to what extent measures should be taken during the patient’s end of life.  One tattoo might not accurately depict what extremes the patient wanted. Consent should be defined by true written permission because this provides an explicit definition of expectations and consent.  When dealing with something as serious as a person’s life, written documentation should provided.

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