Wednesday, December 6, 2017
I've told my students urban myths before about a tattooed advance directive and use that story to talk about the requirements for making a valid directive. So I was interested in reading the article about the DNR tattoo. Health News Florida ran the story, Did 'Do Not Resuscitate' Tattoo Reflect Patient's True Wish? reports the story of a patient at Jackson Memorial in Miami with a DNR tattoo. A tattoo presents some significant ethical questions for doctors. As this story reflects, the immediate questions are "is it legal and ... is it truly the man's wishes," In this case the patient presented at the ER alone with no ID and no family were reachable. Taking this to the hospital ethics committee, the committee ultimately determined this was a valid expression of the patient's directions. In this case, the tattoo contained the patient's signature. The Atlantic also ran a story, What to Do When a Patient Has a 'Do Not Resuscitate' Tattoo which reports a split of opinions from experts regarding whether the hospital should honor the tattoo. One expert offers
It’s the discussion that matters, not the words on the form (or the tattoo), says Joan Teno from the University of Washington, who studies end-of-life wishes. And in many cases, those discussions don’t happen, or aren’t respected. In a study of bereaved family members, she found that one in 10 say that something was done in the last month of a patient’s life that went against their wishes. “The fact that someone has to resort to a tattoo to have their wishes honored is a sad indictment of our medical system,” Teno says. “We need to create systems of care where patients have the trust and confidence that their wishes will be honored. That’s the important message from this case.”
Note to readers: republished to correct typo. Note to self-don't post with head cold.