Doctors in Miami faced an unusual ethical dilemma when an unconscious, deteriorating patient was brought into the emergency room with the words “Do Not Resuscitate” across his chest.
The 70-year-old man was taken earlier this year to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where doctors made their startling discovery: a chest tattoo that seemed to convey the patient’s end-of-life wishes. The word “Not” was underlined, and the tattoo included a signature.
It left the medical team grappling with myriad ethical and legal questions.
Was it an accurate representation of what the patient wanted? Was it legally sound? Should they honor it?
The case was detailed Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, in a report that laid out the medical team’s struggle for answers.
“This patient’s tattooed DNR request produced more confusion than clarity, given concerns about its legality and likely unfounded beliefs that tattoos might represent permanent reminders of regretted decisions made while the person was intoxicated,” the paper’s authors wrote.