The Delray Beach, Fla.-based company VeriChip Corp. has announced plans to implant 200 Alzheimer’s patients in Palm Beach County with radio-frequency identification chips as part of a pilot study to test the new technology.
The VeriMed microchip is approximately the size of a grain of rice and contains a 16-digit patient identification number, which is available to anyone who scans the device with the right technology. This number can then be entered into a database to retrieve a patient’s medical information. The FDA has approved the chip for human implantation.
According to VeriChip’s CEO Scott Silverman, the VeriMed chip will eventually provide peace of mind to the families of Alzheimer’s patients by providing a safety net in case a patient should get lost.
“When an Alzheimer’s patient gets lost, once their arm is scanned, it would identify who they are and that they are an Alzheimer’s patient,” Silverman said.
The chip is not a GPS device, Silverman emphasized, and cannot be used to track people in whom it is implanted. All the participants in the two-year study are volunteers, and Silverman expressed pleasure with the study’s reception so far.
“We had an excellent turn-out at the educational seminars and virtually 100% enrollment,” he said. “This overwhelming acceptance underscores the value of the VeriMed system not only for Alzheimer’s patients, but their caregivers as well.”
But privacy and patients’ rights advocates have criticized the project, charging that it strips Alzheimer’s patients of their dignity.
The organization Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), owner of the web sites spychips.com and antichips.com, has accused VeriChip of testing a potentially unsafe technology on the “most vulnerable” segment of the population, questioning whether Alzheimer’s patients are truly capable of giving their consent to be involved in such a study. CASPIAN has warned that the chips may cause adverse tissue reactions, problems with medical devices, electrical hazards and may place patients at risk of having their private information stolen.
Consumer health advocate Mike Adams added, “These Alzheimer’s patients are being used as guinea pigs as part of a campaign that intends to eventually microchip the entire population. Today, it’s senior citizens, pets and children… in the near future, it will be everyone.”