DNR tattoos are tattoos that say “do not resuscitate.” Because the popularity of tattoos continues to increase, and as some people seem to think that a DNR tattoo is a good way to express their medical choices, we thought we’d talk about this issue. Here is what you should know about getting DNR tattoos in the state of Colorado.
You and Your DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) Orders
A DNR is a “Do Not Resuscitate Order.” They’re also referred to as a “No CPR Order,” or by similar terminology. Regardless of the name, they’re all designed to express to health care workers or first-responders that the person making the order does not wish to be resuscitated if he or she stops breathing or does not have a pulse.
As long as you are a mentally capable adult, you can choose to make a DNR at any time, though you are never under a legal obligation to do so. You are also free to rescind your choice as long as you remain competent.
Colorado Advance Directive Laws
A DNR is one example of a kind of legal device known as advance directives. These documents are so-named because you can make them in advance of becoming incapacitated. Through your directives you can make specific choices about the kind of care you wish to accept or receive, as well as make choices about people you want to make choices for you if you no longer can.
As long as your directive meets the legal requirements imposed by Colorado low, health care workers in Colorado have to abide by the decisions you make.
The unsure legal status of a DNR tattoo is reason enough for them to be, at best, a less-than-wise choice. There is no federal or state law that specifically addresses whether health care workers have to abide by a DNR tattoo. So, in an absence of legislative guidance, there is no way that you can be sure that by getting a DNR tattoo your health care providers would abide by your wishes. Here’s why.
To make any advance directive in Colorado, you have to make a document that complies with specific requirements. For example, if you want to make a Living Will, you have to make a document that you sign and have signed by witnesses. The state’s advance directive laws say nothing about whether having your wishes tattooed on your body is legally enforceable or not.
So, while you can protect your health care wishes by crafting advance directives that meet Colorado legal standards, DNR tattoos probably are not the best way to go about doing it. In fact, receiving such a tattoo probably does absolutely nothing to protect your wishes.
UPDATE: Catherine Hammond was interviewed on the subject of DNR tattoos on 9 News in Denver in September of 2016.
For more information on healthcare decisions upon incapacitation, be sure to attend one of our complementary workshops next week! Catherine Hammond will be talking about the difference between Wills and Trusts, the trouble with joint tenancy, and much more. Register for one of these workshops on our website.