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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 00:11 GMT
Pensioner's 'Do Not Resuscitate' tattoo
Frances Polack's tattoo
Ms Polack's tattoo sets out her wishes
Retired nurse Frances Polack has taken an extraordinary measure to ensure doctors do not try to prolong her life against her wishes.

Ms Polack, 85, from Lyndhurst in Hampshire, is so concerned about unwanted medical care that she has invested in a 25 tattoo across the front of her chest.

It reads "Do Not Resuscitate" in capital letters and is set around a red heart with a line through it.

She feels it is the only way to ensure that doctors take account of her wishes, and that anybody opening her blouse to try to restart her heart will stop immediately.

There have been instances of "Do Not Resuscitate" instructions being found in patient notes after they have received emergency care.

And Ms Polack is concerned that the living will she carried in her handbag might go unseen by medics busy trying to save her life.

Frances Polack
Frances Polack is a former nurse
She also fears that plans to put more than 700 defibrillators in public places will increase the likelihood of a well-meaning stranger trying to give her a few more years.

Ms Polack told Nursing Standard magazine: "I don't want to die twice.

"By resuscitating me, they would be bringing me back from the dead only for me to have to go through it again.

"There is enormous pressure on doctors and paramedics, often from the relatives, to try to revive patients at any cost, even when the patient has made their wishes clear on hospital notes.

'I am not afraid of dying. But I am afraid of living when I should be dead."

Survival rate

Ms Polack said her years as a nurse had left her well aware of just how hard doctors will try to keep a patient alive.

By resuscitating me, they would be bringing me back from the dead only for me to have to go through it again
Frances Polack
"By having this tattoo, nobody can be in any doubt. It's not something I've done on a whim, it can't be washed off and I won't change my mind," she said.

Her granddaughter Dr Claire Polack, a GP in Edinburgh, told the BBC her grandmother was right that the medical profession did not discuss the issue of resuscitation enough.

"It's her way of easing her anxiety," she said.

Recent guidelines from the General Medical Council recommend that people should be involved in all decisions about their medical care.

Figures show that survival after resuscitation is only around 20% - and outside hospital the rate drops still further.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Frances Polack, retired nurse
"It is time people learnt to talk about these things"



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