People decide to get tattoos for various reasons – from self-expression to rebellion. So what to get?? A flower? Perhaps a butterfly? Maybe a heart with “Mom” inscribed in it? Or…what about a tattoo that tells medical professionals of your chronic illness and/or medical wishes? Medical jewelry? Nah, how about a tat?

Recently, I became aware of a phenomenon called medical tattoos. Well “phenomenon” might be a stretch but it is out there. Having MS myself, I’ve seen people get tattoos for inspiration, to keep them going when battling a chronic illness. I never thought of another, perhaps more useful, purpose for a tattoo.

Some people are choosing to tattoo their medical alerts, allergies, and even end-of-life wishes, opting for permanent body make-up rather than wearing medical jewelry. It is an interesting idea and may work extremely well for first responders or in emergency situations.

The obvious benefit is that you will never forget your tattoo and you’ll never lose it. That is, unless dementia sets in and you forget where you put it and then need another tattoo with directions to the first tattoo – kind of like a treasure map or giant connect-the-dots game on the body. What fun for doctors and nurses everywhere!! Of course, an ironic idea would be a tattoo that states one’s aversion to needles.

OK, OK, all joking aside. It is not a bad idea and it could really benefit some people. But the questions abound… Do medical professionals know to be on the look-out for these medical tats? And if so, do they abide by them if they give direction such as “DNR” or “No CPR?” Do these directives hold any legal weight? I don’t think that any state has passed a law addressing medical tattoos but perhaps they should.

And then of course, where does one put the tattoo? I’m going to help out medical professionals everywhere and put “pain in the a$$!” on my buttocks and call it a day! Medical professionals have been warned.

So what do you think? Have you seen medical tattoos in your profession? If so, have you abided by them and taken them into consideration when providing care?