Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

The Controversies of Tattoos and Dying

December 15th, 2008 by

Last week I read a crazy, emotional, interesting article about an organization called Dignitas in Switzerland, who are in the business of assisted suicide (i.e.: you want to die, they make it happen by providing a venue, mixing lethal doses of barbiturates, etc.). A little more reading led to the discovery of a similar Swiss company called Exit and even more reading led to my discovery of a 79-year-old New Zealand woman named Paula Westoby and her snazzy new “Do Not Resuscitate” tattoo.

Star blogged last month about “medical tattoos” and about how some people use them as a way of communicating diseases, allergies, illnesses and whatnot in the event that they themselves cannot. This is also the case for Westoby, who wants medical professionals to leave her be if she ever has a stroke or a heart attack.

The problem with medical tattoos is they’re not always taken at face value, and can, in fact, cause even more uncertainty and confusion for doctors, nurses and EMTs.

“The problem is when did she have it done? Did she have it done under any type of pressure? Has she changed her mind since she’s had it done?” Bioethics Professor Donald Evans told the local press.

Westoby hopes her tattoo will do more than just speak for her when she cannot speak – she hopes it will catch the attention of her country’s politicians and spark a debate and, eventually, a change.

Westoby is a member of Exit – one of the Swiss groups that supports voluntary euthanasia – and is hoping, through the attention garnered by her big “Do Not Resuscitate” chest tattoo, to inspire reforms concerning people’s right to control their destiny.

Westoby feels it’s important “to have some choice over when and how we die.”

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