Tattoos That Could Save Your Life

Forget medical ID bracelets; put it in ink instead

Did you ever think that a tattoo could save a person’s life? No, we don’t mean that in the cheesy, transformative, “I dumped him, got this self-affirming tattoo, and I’ve never looked back” sense. We mean it in the most literal way possible.

If even a whiff of peanuts or penicillin is enough to send you into anaphylactic shock, you can let the world know about it with something a little more fashion-forward than a clunky medical bracelet.

The new trend among those with serious allergies or other life-threatening conditions is a medical tattoo. Sure, it has more hipster cachet than a bracelet, but the real reason that people are opting for medical alert tattoos is their convenience.

As Melissa Boyer, a 31-year-old who's had diabetes since she was two, told the Associated Press (AP) she was sick and tired of losing or breaking her medical ID bracelets. So she decided to have her medical information tattooed on her wrist, where she hopes first responders will notice it.

The question is, will they? The trend is still relatively new and there are no guidelines that tell medics to examine a person’s body for tattoos for life-saving information. Further complicating matters is the fact that not everyone puts their tattoo in the same spot.

According to the AP, Ed Friedlander, M.D., a Kansas City pathologist, went so far as to put the words "No CPR" in the center of his chest, where a paramedic would see it. Friedlander, as you might guess from his ink, has strong wishes not to be revived should his heart stop for any reason. Of course, if I, or another well-meaning bystander, saw someone in need of CPR, I don’t know that any of us would rip the person’s shirt open to perform chest compressions, let alone to check to see if the person requiring medical assistant might just happen to have a tattoo that says they'd prefer not to be saved.

Besides, if emergency personnel saw this tattoo, how would they know if these were Friedlander’s medical wishes or just some stupid band name? Even if someone wrote, “Let me die” across their chest, you know the family would sue the pants off any physician who abided by it. Currently, medical tattoos hold no legal weight, so don’t bother having your last will and testament inked across your torso any time soon.

Just make sure if you do opt for a medical alert tattoo that it’s legible and on a part of the body, like the wrist, where a first responder would think to look for it.

The one thing I can say in support of medical tattoos is at least it’s one tattoo you aren’t likely to regret. I’ll take one over a tramp stamp any day.

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