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A Few Words of Caution About DNR Tattoos

Last year, we blogged about DNR tattoos and why they might be potentially problematic from an estate planning point of view. However, the subject has continued to draw interest, and a lot of people are wondering if getting a DNR tattoo is something they should do. While you should never make any legal decision without first consulting with a qualified estate planning attorney, here are several reasons why choosing to get a DNR tattoo is something you should probably reconsider.


When people come to us and ask about DNR tattoos, they’re doing so because they are interested in ensuring that their medical wishes will be honored if they are no longer able to communicate. DNR stands for “do not resuscitate,” as well as refers to a document that states a person’s desire not to be resuscitated in the event their heart stops or they start breathing. In many situations, people who have terminal medical conditions, or those who do not wish to prolong their lives using heroic measures, want to fill out a DNR form so they can be sure that their health care providers will follow their wishes.

DNRs and Advance Directives

In North Carolina, a DNR form is a specific kind of form used by medical practitioners to notify one another that a specific patient does not wish to be resuscitated. For people in North Carolina wishing to state their medical preferences, you can ensure your medical practitioners follow your wishes by creating an advance directive.

Advance directives are legal documents people can create that state their medical care preferences. In North Carolina there are four main advance directives: a health care power of attorney, a declaration of an anatomical gift, an advanced instruction for mental health treatment, and a declaration of a desire for natural death. The fourth, the declaration of desire for a natural death, is what most people think of when they think of a DNR. By filling out this document, as well as the other advance medical directives available to you, you can be sure that your health care wishes will be honored.

DNR Tattoos and Peace of Mind

Like all legal documents, the advance directives available to people in North Carolina have some specific legal requirements that must be met in order for doctors and other health care providers to be able to rely upon them. What this means for you is that you have to make sure your documents complying with the law in order to be sure that they will be effective.

So, when it comes to DNR tattoos, the question is not whether you can make them, but whether they will be effective. Is a tattoo the same as a document? Will a court accept a DNR tattoo as a suitable replacement for an advance medical directive?

The answer to these questions is not entirely clear because there is no clear legal precedent. Because of this fact alone, DNR tattoos are probably a bad idea.

In other words, if you get a DNR tattoo, you have no way to be sure that your doctors will abide by your wishes.

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