updated 5/18/2006 9:54:28 PM ET 2006-05-19T01:54:28

Mary Wohlford has made it perfectly clear what her final wishes are: It's written in ink — on her skin. Wohlford, 80, had the words "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" tattooed on her chest in February.

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Wohlford hopes she's made her wishes perfectly clear should she become incapacitated. She also has a living will hanging on the side of her refrigerator.

"People might think I'm crazy, but that's OK," she said. "Sometimes the nuttiest ideas are the most advanced."

But Wohlford's decision to have her final wishes imprinted on her chest have raised some legal issues.

Some medical and legal experts doubt that Wohlford's tattoo would be binding in the emergency room or in court. But they give her credit for originality.

"I'll be darned," said Bob Cowie, a Decorah lawyer and chairman of the Iowa Bar Association's probate and trust law section.

‘There are easier ways’
"There are easier ways to do it than that," said Cowie, who suggested people sign a living will or authorize a medical power of attorney.

Wohlford said she knows some people might find the tattoo amusing. But she said her motive is serious.

"This is a modern day and age," she said. "You have to advance with the times. We never even had a living will 20 years ago. Now I think we've got to go to the next step."

So, will Wohlford's tattoo stop an Iowa doctor from resuscitating her? No, said Dr. Mark Purtle, who works at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines.

Purtle said Iowa law defines when caregivers are permitted to end life-sustaining measures. A tattoo isn't enough, he said.

He recommended a living will or an advanced directive, with a copy placed in the patient's medical charge. He also said people should discuss their wishes with family members.

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