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In 2011, in England, 81-year old Joy Tomkins got a tattoo: “Do Not Resuscitate.”

I overheard a chaplain chatting with a social worker about a patient.

“She asked me,” the chaplain said, “if a DNR order would interfere with her getting to heaven.”

The two hospice staff kept slowly moving away from me. I don’t know if the social worker responded, or what the chaplain had explained to the patient after she asked her heavenly question. Maybe my colleagues continued discussing this patient or shifted to other subjects.

I’m not sure anyone could tell the patient about heaven’s entry requirements. Different faith traditions have different views of the “better place” after death. Humans have pondered Valhalla and Nirvana and Paradise and Heaven for millennia. I’ve read and heard some Christians describe heaven as more difficult to enter than an Ivy League school. I’ve read and heard other believers claim the “pearly gates” are wide and welcoming for every soul.

Heaven’s rules may be mysterious or debatable, but what about DNR? That was the part of the patient’s question that kept nudging me. It stands for Do Not Resuscitate, and according to, it is, Read More →

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