Man dies because of ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Tattoo – Do you believe Hospital did the right thing?
Do Not Resuscitate Tattoo – A 70-year-old man was rushed to a hospital in Florida. He was unconscious, had an elevated blood-alcohol level and generally in bad shape. Doctors had to move quickly in order to try and save his life, but when they opened his shirt they stopped in their tracks. The words ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ were tattooed on his chest.
According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that addressed this particular incident, the man had no identification on him and no family members were there – so they found themselves facing a serious dilemma. At first they decided to ignore the tattoo as there was no way to confirm if it was what the man really wanted. They were prepared to treat him with antibiotics and other life-saving measures, but when they called in the hospital’s ethics consultant, they were advised to honor the tattooed message.
Soon after, the hospital’s social work department somehow found a copy of the man’s Florida Department of Health DNR order, which validated the inked-request on his chest. A ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order was issued and the man, who had a history of serious health problems, was not treated and soon died.
Laws about ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders could be very complex and bring up many ethical questions. In this case, a tattoo alerted the doctors to the possibility of a DNR order, but how could they have been certain? A tattoo alone is not legally binding. Doctors are morally and legally obligated to respect the wishes of their patients, but if they are unable to confirm their wishes it can put them in a very precarious position.
Do you think a DNR order tattooed on a person’s body should be unquestioningly followed? Would you go to the same lengths to assure your wishes are granted?
Bonnie Wurst – firstname.lastname@example.org