A man’s puzzling tattoo left doctors debating whether to save his life …
(AJ Willingham, CNN) Picture this: A man is admitted to the hospital, unconscious, with a history of serious health problems and a high blood alcohol level.
He has no identification and no family with him. On his chest, he has a tattoo:
“Do Not Resuscitate.”
What would you do?
It sounds like a worst-case-scenario question from a medical ethics course, but it really happened recently at a Florida hospital.
A newly published study explored the ethical and medical conundrums the staff faced when presented with a 70-year-old patient whose denial of potentially life-saving treatment was right there on his skin.
At first, doctors wanted to ignore it
The doctors attending to the man didn’t want to honor the tattoo because there was no way to be absolutely sure that’s what the man wanted.
Laws about do not resuscitate orders are sometimes complex and vary from state to state. According to an article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, “Clinicians are morally and legally obligated to respect the preferences of patients to forego life-sustaining treatment.”
However, this typically means an official signed a do not resuscitate agreement such as a Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment.
Tattoos, while clearly administered with a patient’s wishes, aren’t legally binding, and are usually considered too ambiguous to act upon.
[In this case, the man had also gone to the lengths of having his actual signature tattooed to his chest as well – see photo. Once emergency room personnel consulted the hospital’s director of medical ethics, the man’s tattooed signature likely sealed his fate. – Editor]
Ultimately, a do not resuscitate order was issued, and the man died. Read the full post at CNN.