Sept. 8, 2011— -- A British grandmother wanting to make sure that her living will was followed has had the words "Do Not Resuscitate" tattoed over her heart in large blue capital letters.
And in case Joy Tomkins, of Norfolk, England, collapsed forward and medics only had a chance to look at her back, Tomkins had an additional tattoo inked on her upper right shoulder reading "P.T.O."--for Please Turn Over--with an arrow below it pointing toward her front side.
"Basically, when they find me, if I can't speak, I want them to know I don't really want my life prolonged," said Tomkins, who said she got the tatoo four or five years ago after seeing another British woman in the news for doing the same thing.
The 81-year-old, who is not terminally ill but does suffer from diabetes and arthritis, said the tattoo was a way to ensure that her living will, which she created when her husband died after a long battle with illness in his 50s, would be followed.
"People who are brought back, lots of them just don't know what's going on. They lie there with their eyes open but don't recognize the people around them, and I don't want to put my children through that," she said.
The mother of two and grandmother of six said her children understood her decision and would not protest.
"I just don't want to be a vegetable," she said. "I was born an animal and I don't want to die a vegetable."
Tomkins said she was happy about all the attention paid to her tattoo because it might help people become more comfortable with discussing death and end-of-life options.
"I don't want to incense anybody, but a lot of people wish they would have asked what their elderly relatives wanted before it was too late," Tomkins said.
The octogenarian didn't stop with just the two medical tattoos; in the past five years, she's had a dragon inked on one arm and a cat tattooed on the other.
"Those are fun things, and the P.T.O. is a little joke one, but I'm very serious about the one on the front," she said.
Tomkins also wears a living will bracelet.