For the most part tattoos serve as fashion statements, meaningful reminders or sill reminders of youth gone by, but nowadays tattoos are serving a new purpose.
A small number of Americans are now relying on tattoos for a more practical, potentially lifesaving purpose, to warn first responders about important medical conditions.
Though medical tattoos don’t appear to carry much legal weight, they are being used to take the place of bracelets that commonly list a person’s allergies, chronic diseases or even end-of-life wishes. The American Medical Association does not specifically address medical tattoos in its guidelines. But Dr. Saleh Aldasouqi, an endocrinologist at Michigan State University, hopes that might change.
“My intention has been to bring this issue to the surface so that medical organizations can have a say in that. When you just Google it, you’re going to find hundreds of stories and discussions, but no medical say. So I feel we leave our patients kind of afloat. It would be helpful, for instance, if the tattoos were uniform or placed in the same area of the body so responders would know where to look. My perspective is that we as physicians need to be involved in this.”
With medical laws varying, for example do-not-resuscitate orders can vary widely from state to state and Missouri law does not address medical tattoos at all, it’s questionable whether medics or doctors would be under any obligation to honor end-of-life instructions in a tattoo, unless they could be sure the patient also had signed legally binding papers.
However, as more and more people choose to get medical tattoos, there’s no doubt that the appropriate laws and regulations will follow.
Would you get a medical tattoo?