Right to die grandmother has "Do Not Resuscitate" TATTOO on her chest (and "PTO" on her back!)

A grandmother who wants doctors to let her die if she falls ill has had 'Do Not Resuscitate' tattooed across her chest – and 'PTO' on her back.

Joy Tomkins, 81, decided she did not want to be brought back to life in a medical emergency following the slow death of her husband Malcolm.

The same year of her husband's death, Mrs Tomkins made a living will stating that she did not want medicos to resuscitate her in the event of a medical emergency.

Mrs Tomkins decided to have tattoos confirming her wishes after she watched her mother, father and mother-in-law suffer lingering deaths.

The mum-of-two, who is not terminally ill, visited a tattoo parlour and paid £5 to have 'Do Not Resuscitate' written across her chest to ensure that doctors respect her 'right to die'.

Mrs Tomkins has also had 'PTO' and an arrow inked onto her back so that paramedics would read the words on her chest if she collapsed face first.

'I don't want to upset anyone but this is something I feel strongly about. I won't change my mind I never do and my children support me in this.'

'That is why I got the tattoo. I have all sorts of things wrong with me but my head is fine. I don’t have a death wish I just don't want o be kept alive in pain.'

A health care directive (HCD) or advance care directive records your specific wishes about treatment that you would like to have in the event of life-threatening illness or injury, and any treatments you would refuse.

It is a way to ensure the people involved in your life understand your wishes about medical treatment and care. This will help guide them in the event you become seriously ill or injured and cannot make your own decisions about your medical care.

It is sensible to discuss your wishes and treatment options with your doctor, family and other people who are close to you. You do not have to have a terminal illness to start talking with your loved ones and health professionals about your wishes. HCDs can also guide families and health professionals if you have an unexpected accident or illness.

Ideally these conversations should start when you are well and then continue throughout your illness. You must have capacity to make a HCD.

Your wishes should be documented to assist your loved ones and health professionals when making decisions about your care when you are no longer able to do so.

If you do choose to write down your wishes in a HCD, there is no specific form to use. You can simply write a letter or statement about your wishes or you may wish to include them as a direction in your form of appointment of enduring guardian.

Your HCD may contain lengthy detailed instructions or you may have a short simple direction (like Joy!).

You should sign and date your HCD. There is no requirement to have a HCD witnessed – however, it is preferable that it is witnessed by an independent adult person.

You can request your enduring guardian refer to your HCD before making any medical or health decisions for you. No one can override your HCD, not even your legally appointed guardian.

Your treating doctor should consider your HCD to be valid provided:

  • you had capacity when you wrote it and you made it voluntarily;
  • it has clear and specific details about treatments that you would accept or refuse; and
  • it is current and is relevant to your current circumstances.

Doctors and health professionals will only refer to your HCD if you are unable to make your own decisions.

You can update or re-write your HCD if and when your health needs or circumstances change, provided you have capacity.

You should keep your HCD in a place that is easily accessible for you or others to locate it if it is needed. You should also give a copy of it to your doctor, your health care facility, your enduring guardian and relevant family members.

Like making a will or appointing an attorney or enduring guardian, advance care planning using a HCD is an important part of planning ahead and ensuring your affairs are in order.