Grandmother's chest tattoo makes wishes clear

Paula Westoby reveals her DO NOT RESUSCITATE tattoo yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Paula Westoby reveals her DO NOT RESUSCITATE tattoo yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The point size was 35, the font was arial, and the message tattooed across the chest of a 79-year-old Dunedin grandmother was clear - DO NOT RESUSCITATE.

Paula Westoby, the Dunedin co-ordinator of euthanasia group Exit International, admitted to being "scared to death" before getting her first tattoo yesterday.

"I guess if I collapse on the table, the tattooist will let me be," she said.

Ms Westoby, who has high blood pressure, said she wanted to die with dignity and the tattoo was her assurance she would not be resuscitated.

"I wanted to add 'If you do I will sue' at the bottom of it, but you have to stop at some point."

Two months ago, she wrote the message, with the help of her grandson in indelible ink across her chest and then decided to get it done - permanently.

"I wanted to make a statement and I think this is the best way to do it . . . and it is bloody practical too."

Her efforts won the support of the man dubbed "Dr Death", Exit International director Philip Nitschke.

"One has the right to refuse medical treatment, but when unconscious this wish is often overlooked, or worse, ignored . . . I expect Paula's new tattoo to go some way towards ensuring her wishes will be respected."

And the message appears to be working.

Tattoo artist Aaron Manuel, of Visual Intelligence, said he would respect her wishes if she collapsed while getting her tattoo, "I would hate to see what would happen afterwards."

Upon hearing the story behind her tattoo, Mr Manuel waived the $200 charge and the seven-month waiting list. Surprised by how little the one-hour procedure hurt, Ms Westoby said she was excited about seeing the results.

"I just love it."

Ms Westoby hoped her tattoo would inspire more debate on the right to die in New Zealand and prompt a law change to give people that choice. However, St John Southern Region operations manager Doug Third said a tattoo saying "Do not resuscitate" would not stop him from saving a life.

"I would hesitate for a second but I would still do my job."

He said if people did not want to be resuscitated, they should take out a do not resuscitate order rather than get a tattoo. Ambulance officers respected the wishes of people who had taken out an order but "our first instinct is always to save that person".

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

 

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