Do Not Resuscitate This Tattoo. Or the Person Attached to It.

Medical Alert Tattoo Replaces Bracelet on Type 1 Diabetic
Susan Kreimer, AARP Bulletin (June 6, 2012)

Medical Alert Tattoos. This is my new favorite tattooing term. It is the perfect blend of utility, pragmatism and bad ass ink.

We’ve been covering Memorial Tattoos for a while on Death Ref and you can see those posts here.

All credit goes to the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) for publishing this short article on its members who choose different kinds of Medical Alert Tattoos. I already knew about the Do Not Resuscitate tattoos. In December 2008, an older Death with Dignity activist in New Zealand gained international attention when she got her own DNR tattoo. And in late 2011, an 81-year old British woman did the same thing.

Albert Cutter, M.D., with his medical alert tattoo. — Photo by Dean Lewins/Corbis

The AARP discusses other MAT’s (a new tattooing acronym!), such as putting ‘Type-1 Diabetic’ on a person’s wrist.

I fully support the use of Medical Alert Tattoos. 100%. Indeed, these tattoos represent a form of older person activism that I really respect.

MAT’s also give the grandkids something to tell their friends about.

But any Medical Alert Tattoo, especially a Do Not Resuscitate tattoo, comes with a cautionary note: the status quo is still a piece of jewelry or a written order. The tattoos won’t necessarily register as a person’s officially and legally recognized choice. Paradoxically as that sounds.

The AARP also flags up this issue:

A word of caution: First responders aren’t trained to look for tattoos, and skin damage in accidents can obscure them, says Rebecca Dinan Schneider, spokeswoman for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. “Medical alert jewelry is still the standard.”

One day this will change. And perhaps sooner than we might imagine.

2 thoughts on “Do Not Resuscitate This Tattoo. Or the Person Attached to It.

  • Mike Belsito, 20 June 12:01 pm

    So maybe the tattoos won’t be recognized as the legal/official choice of the individual, but they will certainly stand out!

    I think it’s great things like this are bringing the topic of DNR (and other advance directives) to the forefront…in a very unique way.

    Great post.

  • Pashta MaryMoon, 30 July 2:55 pm

    I got two of DRN tattoos. The first (just DNR) is on my right wrist, because that is where paramedics would look for a medical alert bracelet. Just in case they don’t recognize what is being stated, I also had ‘No CPR’ tattooed on my left chest. Most people are used to the fact that I am an older womyn and have visible tattoos — however, most of them were also somewhat ‘creeped out’ by me putting DNR/noCPR tattooes on my body. However, I want people to know that I got the idea from an older womyn. We were in a workshop together on Advance Directives (she was sitting behind me). When I raised my hand to ask a question, she saw my other tattoos. Immediately afterwards, she asked if a tattooed DNR would be a viable alternative to a medical alert bracelet — and of course, I thought ‘why didn’t I think of that?’

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