Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Who should have an implantable radio frequency identification (RFID) chip?


Have you ever considered this question? Who should have an implantable radio frequency identification (RFID) chip? What about those people who come to the ER, unconscious with no identification? They get labeled: John Doe or Jane Doe. If you work in an urban hospital, you know what I'm talking about.

What about individuals with dementia who are prone to wandering? What about your toddler child who is prone to wandering?

The VeriChip Corporation, a Florida-based provider of radio frequency identification (RFID) systems for healthcare, has a small chip that can be easily implanted. The VeriMed Health Link patient identification system includes an implantable microchip, the VeriChip. The thing is so small that you may not even know that it's in you. Some people feel that the chip should be implanted in certain individuals who are at risk for wandering. Others may even think that convicted sex offenders should be permanently tagged with a GPS-tracking chip.

The state of Pennsylvania recently passed a bill that would ban the forced implantation of identification devices in humans. The bill was introduced by Democratic State Rep. Babette Josephs and was unanimously passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on June 24. It will now go to the Senate for consideration. Do you agree that the privacy risks that could occur as a result of implanting such a device in any human, regardless of age or condition, outweigh any possible benefits?

Scott R. Silverman, chairman of VeriChip, says, "For years, we, as a company, have enforced a strict privacy policy that starts with the voluntary use of our VeriMed Health Link patient identification system, which includes our implantable microchip, the VeriChip. The primary application of our VeriMed Health Link patient identification system and the VeriChip microchip is to identify high-risk patients and their medical records in an emergency or clinical situation."

Sounds like we're getting into some serious ethical issues if we try to force implantation in anyone. At what point does an individual lose enough autonomy for these types of privacy-related decisions? If an elder has severe dementia, medical decisions are generally made by someone who is designated as the power of attorney. What if a non-competent adult lacks a power of attorney? Who then gets to decide about an implantable microchip?

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