Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tatooing Medical Directives on our Bodies

Unfortunately I don't know Dr. Ed Friedlander, a pathologist in Kansas City, so I haven't had a chance to ask him about his decision to have "No CPR" tatooed on the center of his chest. If you want to see what his distinctive form of advance directive looks like, the Associated Press article about using tatoos to convey medical information shows him holding his shirt open.

Many people are afraid that their wishes for how medical care should and should not be administered will not be followed. Since the default option in emergencies is to "do everything," folks like Dr. Friedlander who want to let nature take its course when their heart stops have good reason to fear chest pounding and electrical shocking if an ambulance was called for them.

It's just a matter of time until we see a Saturday Night Live routine in which the emergency medical technician gets preoccupied reading an essay on the chest of the person whose side they are called to. Whatever Dr. Friedlander's motive for the tatoo is, he's dramatizing the degree to which many people fear that health care on automatic pilot will (literally) run roughshod over them.

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