Downham Market woman’s tattoo highlights her ‘right to die’ belief

A grandmother who has had 'Do Not Resuscitate' tattooed across her chest almost died as a child, it emerged last night.

Joy Tomkins, 81, has sparked a national debate after revealing her tattoo and saying she wants doctors to let her die if she falls ill.

The Downham Market resident has also had 'PTO' and an arrow inked on to her back so that paramedics will read the words on her chest if she collapses face first.

The mum-of-two had the tattoos done earlier this year and hopes doctors respect her 'right to die' following the slow death of her husband Malcolm.

She said: 'Everybody has to die some time but I do not want to end up as a vegetable. When I'm alive, I am alive and when I'm dead, I'm dead, and I hope the doctors will respect this.'

She added: 'I'm not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of living when I should be dead.'

The grandmother-of-six, who suffers from arthritis, Reynaud's disease and diabetes, almost died at the age of five after complications when she contracted measles. She also claims to remember seeing a 'bright garden with children playing' whilst at death's door before telling her grandmother she was not scared of passing away.

Most Read

But Mrs Tomkins recovered and went on to work as an editorial secretary at Punch magazine in Fleet Street, London, until she became a full-time mum at 27. Her husband Malcolm, 51, a civil servant, died in 1981 after a seven-year battle against Conn's syndrome – where sufferers have an overactive adrenal gland.

Eight years later, the 81-year-old made a living will stating that she did not want medics to resuscitate her in the event of a medical emergency.

She renewed this will in 2006 and decided to have the tattoos confirming her wishes after she watched her mother, father and mother-in-law also suffer lingering deaths.

She continued: 'I don't want to lie for hours, months or even years before dying. I don't want my family to remember me as a lump. I don't want to upset anyone, but this is something I feel strongly about. There should be no problems and dilemmas for any doctor or paramedic because I have a perfectly clear message on my chest and in my living will.'

Her children Thomas, 52, and Mary, 50, are aware of her wishes and, according to Mrs Tomkins, support her right to die.

She added: 'I hope me having these tattoos has sparked a debate and will encourage people to discuss death and perhaps even encourage more people to do the same thing.'

Mrs Tomkins revealed that the inspiration for her 'Do Not Resuscitate' tattoo came from Frances Polack, from Hampshire, who did the same thing in 2003. The former nurse said she did it to prevent any doctor and her relatives from getting into trouble for obeying her wishes to be allowed to die when seriously ill.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter