Death + Art / Architecture Death + Popular Culture Death + the Law Death Ethics

Do Not Resuscitate Tattoos Cannot Be Stopped!

Tattoos Replacing Medical-Alert Bracelets for Those with Diabetes, Other Ailments
Aisling Swift, Scripps Howard News Service

Ladies and Gentlemen. Dearest Death Reference Desk Readers. Lovers of all things Death, Dying, and Dead Body.

We are witnessing an entirely new tattoo genre not only take flight but unquestionably cement itself into daily life. The Medical Alert Tattoo will not, cannot, oh my goodness no no no, go away!

In mid-June I wrote about recent developments in Medical Alert Tattooing: Do Not Resuscitate this Tattoo. Or the Person Attached to It.

This most recent article by Scripps Howard seems to have suspiciously borrowed some ideas from ye olde Death Reference Desk but it’s cool.

In a nutshell, people from all different kinds of backgrounds and age groups are having various medical condition alerts tattooed onto their bodies. So, for example, Type I or II Diabetes on the wrist. But many people are also having DO NOT RESUSCITATE tattooed onto their chest. We’ve been covering these DNR tattoos since Death Ref’s humble beginnings in 2009.

And now, it seems, the Do Not Resuscitate tattoos are a real phenomena.

As with any discussion on DNR (or other Medical Alert) tattoos, it’s important to state that medical staff are not necessarily going to follow the tattooed request. At least not the Do Not Resuscitate part.

But if you go for the ink, then no one can doubt your commitment. And that’s a political statement unto itself.

Special Note: Send the Death Reference Desk photos of your DNR or Medical Alert Tattoos. We want to start a photo collection.

Death + Art / Architecture Death + Popular Culture Death + the Law Death Ethics

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.

Death + Art / Architecture Death + Popular Culture Death + the Web

The Dark Arts, the DIY/craft juggernaut, is the go-to place to buy and sell all things handmade. If you are familiar with this phenomenon, you would know that if it’s vintage button earrings and owl-themed stationary you desire, then Etsy has it locked down.

The Etsy craze is so hot right now that it was recently featured in a NY Times story. Online since 2005, Etsy employs 74 people — and one dog named Dottie — according to the “About” section of their website. And, you really know you’ve made it when another site pops up mocking yours — see

Since I am interested in craft and DIY culture, and I like to troll Etsy from time to time, I decided to do a little searching on some death-related terms and see what comes up. I figured I’d see some skeleton-themed, Halloween-y stuff and sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. But digging a bit deeper, one comes across a most interesting array of death/dead/dying oriented items that are available for purchase for that special someone in your life.

I compiled a list of search terms and their corresponding hits below. But alas, there are some false hits. For example, in searching the term “dying,” Etsy doesn’t make the distinction between a seller writing that you may be “dying” to get your hands on her vintage fabric scrap neck gator vs. actual items that somehow are related to the actual act of dying. The “Advanced Search” supposedly allows you to narrow your search by adding the minus (-) sign, but it doesn’t always work. So, to use the “dying” example again, if you search on that term, you will also be given items that are tie-died and die-cut. As you can imagine, this annoys this here librarian. The date of this search was Sunday, February 21, 2010.

  • We found 11,675 results for dead.
  • We found 3,470 results for death.
  • We found 16,098 results for dying.
  • We found 549 results for coffin.
  • We found 337 results for funeral.
  • We found 11 results for morgue.
  • We found 62 results for burial.
  • We found 161 results for suicide.

Peering further into these categories, here now are but a few of the handmade goodies on offer (click the photos to see the items in Etsy). I’ll let you explore some of the more “shock and awe” items on your own.

Toe-Tag Party Invitation

Natural, Green Burial Casket

Vintage Wells Fargo Casket Tag

Human Bone Necklace