A man with a do not resuscitate tattoo sparked a big debate about whether such requests should be honored, or if doctors should save him.
A unconscious man entered a hospital in Florida recently with a high blood alcohol level and a tattoo reading “Do Not Resuscitate” on his chest, leaving doctors baffled about what to do. That’s according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which attempted to tackle the ethical and medical questions that the incident raises.
While the 70-year-old patient apparently didn’t want to be resuscitated based on the tattoo on his chest, there are questions on whether that is legally binding, and if the hospital would be in the clear for letting him die. Doctors didn’t want to honor the tattoo in this situation because it wasn’t clear if this was what the man wanted, so they treated him with antibiotics.
But the hospital’s ethics consultant apparently felt differently about the situation. The laws themselves, however, can be pretty complex and different depending on what state you’re in. Such Do Not Resuscitate agreements are usually legal documents, and not something tattooed on one’s chest.
“We present the case of a person whose presumed code-status preference led him to tattoo “Do Not Resuscitate” on his chest,” the letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine states. “Paramedics brought an unconscious 70-year-old man with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, and atrial fibrillation to the emergency department, where he was found to have an elevated blood alcohol level. The staff of the medical intensive care unit evaluated him several hours later when hypotension and an anion-gap metabolic acidosis with a pH of 6.81 developed. His anterior chest had a tattoo that read “Do Not Resuscitate,” accompanied by his presumed signature.”