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http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Health/20120514/tattoos-medical-conditions-120514/TORONTO — Medical tattoos are becoming more common, with some people choosing to ink their wrists or other body parts with warnings about a health condition instead of wearing standard MedicAlert bracelets or necklaces, says a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
But critics of the practice say paramedics and emergency room doctors might not notice the tattoos, possibly leading to incorrect treatment.
"On the surface it doesn't sound like a bad idea, but there's a few issues that we have with it," said Robert Ridge, president and CEO of the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation.
"The first is paramedics have been trained in Canada for over 50 years to look for a medical alerting ID, usually on the wrist or the neck," Ridge told The Canadian Press on Monday. "So MedicAlert members either wear a bracelet or a necklet or a watch. And emergency responders have been trained to look in those places for any medical alerting information."
And it's not only emergency responders who use the system, he said. "It could be anyone. It could be a member of the public who comes across someone in distress and is able, through the MedicAlert ID, to call the hotline and help the person."
Ridge said members of the charitable organization wear MedicAlert devices to identify themselves as having a range of conditions, from diabetes and epilepsy to life-threatening allergies to peanuts or certain drugs like penicillin.
Vancouver tattoo artist Andrew Warren said that during his 12 years in business, he's had a "handful of folks" who wanted a medical-related tat.
In fact, many of those clients were paramedics, he said Monday. "And that's the weird thing, because they know it can't be taken at face value."