The words “do not resuscitate” were found tattooed on the chest of a man in Miami.
Doctors were spun into confusion by this discovery, unsure of whether to honour the 70-year-old man’s wishes.
The confusion was heightened because the man had no forms of identification. One of the only clues to his identity was his signature, placed beneath his tattoo.
A history of lung disease, heart problems and diabetes. He was admitted into hospital with high blood alcohol levels.
A letter published by the doctors in The New England Journal of Medicine stated, “We initially decided not to honor the tattoo, invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty.”
There were strong grounds for their skepticism. in 2012, there was a report of a man who wanted to be resuscitated, but had a ‘DNR’ (Do Not Resuscitate) tattoo because he lost a bet.
The doctors wrote further in their letter that that they later consulted an ethics expert, Kenneth W. Goodman, who said, “It was most reasonable to infer that the tattoo expressed an authentic preference.”
Resuscitation is an extremely painful and invasive procedure which only has a small chance of preserving life.
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He writes that only half survive the initial event in hospital, and only 20 per cent live to be discharged. For those with frail health, the odds are even worse.
Pemberton describes resuscitation as traumatic and brutal. He would hate for anyone he knew to go through it.
The doctors in Miami followed Kenneth Goodman’s counsel and chose not to resuscitate the 70-year-old. It later turned out that the man had filed an official statement asking not to be resuscitated.