Will Medical Tattoos Replace Medical ID Bracelets?


For years it has been the norm that patients who suffer from a chronic disease that can exacerbate suddenly and may require immediate specialist treatment, such as diabetes or a severe food allergy, wear medical ID bracelets (or other types of jewelry) to alert others to their condition. In many cases, these bracelets have single-handedly saved peoples’ lives. In the case of a medical emergency, medical responders have been trained to know where to look for medical jewelry and what the various engraved symbols mean. However, for those looking for a more permanent or personal solution, there is a new way of identifying your medical condition.

Recently, mostly younger patients have been choosing to get permanent medical tattoos instead of wearing traditional medical ID jewelry. These medical tattoos are just like normal tattoos, except for the fact that they indicate the illnesses or allergies an individual has. Indicating medical conditions through medical tattoos is becoming increasingly trendy in tattoo shops throughout the country, especially among teenagers. While the medical tattoo trend is on the rise, it does bring up some logistical questions.

There is a definite lack of established guidelines in the medical community on how medical tattoos should be administered and effectively used. For example, it would be helpful if tattoos were uniform or placed in the same area of the body so responders would know where to look. Another problem is that many patients’ medical information changes over time and a permanent tattoo is not conducive to changing information. In terms of legal complications, there is no law regarding the obligation of doctors to honor end-of-life instructions in a tattoo. Furthermore, laws on do-not-resuscitate orders, which vary widely from state to state, do not address medical tattoos. In this situation, in order to validate a medical tattoo a patient would also have to also sign legally binding papers.

While medical tattoos are not as widely accepted as medical ID jewelry, it is important to note that any additional medical information is helpful for emergency professionals who are looking for information about a patient’s condition and treatment preferences. In order for medical tattoos to be more widely used and accepted, specific medical tattoo guidelines need to be written up.

Would you get a medical tattoo to indicate a medical condition?

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