Why physicians don't recommend DNR tattoos

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While patients may think tattooing "do not resuscitate" on their bodies is a clear way to communicate their care preferences during a medical emergency, the body ink can actually create confusion and uncertainty for physicians, according to Reuters

Physicians are often hesitant to follow the tattooed DNR order unless the patient has an accompanying DNR form, living will or advanced care directive documented on paper. Tattoos are a permanent commitment, and patients may change their care preferences after receiving the tattoo, according to Gregory Holt, MD, PhD, a physician at Miami-based Jackson Memorial Hospital who recently encountered an unconscious patient with a DNR tattoo on his chest.

Another concern among physicians is that the patient got the DNR tattoo as a joke or when they were intoxicated. Lori Cooper, MD, a private practice endocrinologist in Seattle, once treated a 59-year-old patient at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco who had gotten "D.N.R." tattooed on his chest after losing a bet playing poker and wanted to be resuscitated if he went into cardiac or respiratory arrest.

"We deal with code status so much and everyone says, 'I'm just going to tattoo it on myself.' But that … creates a lot of confusion," Dr. Cooper told Reuters. "It can change with the person's health at the time, or their age, and you have to ask if it reflects their wishes down the road. … It's not a great idea."

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