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Think Twice Before Getting a DNR Tattoo

A little over a year ago an 80-year-old woman in England had the phrase “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on her chest. For those of you who do not know, a DNR order, or do not resuscitate order, is a medical directive that states your desire for not receiving CPR should your heart stop.

While having your medical wishes tattooed on your body may seem like an appealing idea to you, there are several reasons why this choice is probably not a good one as far as the law is concerned.

Advance Directives

Every state has laws that direct how people can create legally valid advance medical directives, such as DNRs, living wills, and powers of attorney for healthcare. A good advance directive is one you create in accordance with these laws and one that all your healthcare or medical care providers will recognize and honor. No state has laws that address advance medical directive tattoos, and it is very unlikely medical personnel will see the tattoo and honor it as a valid medical directive.


Even though the words “do not resuscitate” seem explicit, think of it from a doctor’s point of view. If you come into a hospital and the doctor sees the words “do not resuscitate” tattooed on your chest, does that necessarily mean you do not want CPR? For all the doctor knows it could be the name of your favorite band.


You can change your advance medical directives whenever you wish, but the same is not true with a tattoo. There is no way a medical worker can be absolutely certain of your current medical choices if you get a tattoo because you could have very easily changed your mind since you received it.

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