Paramedics brought a 70-year-old man to the University of Miami hospital emergency room after finding him on the street, intoxicated and unconscious. Doctors tried to revive him got no response. Then they had an unusual problem: The man had a ‘Do not resuscitate’ tattoo on his chest, with a line under the ‘not.’ There was also something that looked like his signature. Tattoos are not legally-binding DNR orders, and in Florida, there are very specific requirements for DNRs. to be legal. Both a doctor and the patient must sign it, and they must be on paper, not on chests.
The doctors decided to respect the man’s tattoo. They did not try to revive him after the initial efforts failed
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Was that the right call?
The story says they consulted ethicists. They didn’t consult me. I would have said that they had to try to resuscitate him, and I don’t think it’s a particularly close question:
1 The DNR wasn’t official or legal.
2. Tattoos are often ironic or facetious, or done and regretted later. It looked like a possible joke to me.
3. The signature was the best argument for taking the tattoo seriously. But when was the tattoo made? How did the doctors know that he hadn’t changed his mind? It’s a lot harder to change a tattoo than a signed and dated document.
4. The hospital has a conflict of interest: if the man ended up on a ventilator, it might be stuck with the bill. Letting him die was obviously the hospital’s smartest course, and those ethicists worked for the hospital.