Florida Company Set to Sell Microchip Implants to Carry Medical Records, Identification
Palm Beach, Fla.-based Applied Digital Solutions is poised to become the first company to sell microchips designed to be implanted into the human body, paving the way for new medical monitoring and identification, the Los Angeles Times reports. A surgeon working with the company recently injected two of the chips into his own body to test the technology (Streitfeld, Los Angeles Times, 12/19). Each chip is "slightly smaller than a Tic Tac mint" and can hold about "two paragraphs worth" of data (O'Harrow, Washington Post, 12/19). The chip does not have its own power source, but it can be read by a handheld scanner from as far as four feet away. Applied Digital hopes the devices will be used to provide emergency medical personnel with instant access to identification information and relevant medical data for patients with special medical conditions. The implantable chips require FDA approval, which Applied Digital expects by the middle of next year. The company has already obtained permission from the FCC, which is needed because the devices use radio frequencies. Regulatory approval is not required in some foreign countries, however, and the company plans to begin selling the chips in South America in about three months (Los Angeles Times, 12/19).
The Post reports that the devices could present ethical or privacy "dilemmas if implanted against someone's wishes," or if the information contained on the chip was available to "prying eyes." Thomas Murray, president of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute, said the device "evokes images of science fiction." He added, "We need to consider carefully the broader implications. Alongside the possible benefits, it has the potential to be misused by forces who do not have your interests at heart" (Washington Post, 12/19). Some critics also question the market for the device, saying that using the chip for everyday purposes would require a "great deal of work." Michael Nova, founder of Graviton, a company developing wireless machine-to-machine communication systems, said, "It's a glorified bar code, and there are not a lot of people who are going to want it. At the moment, this is an intriguing idea that doesn't have a market" (Los Angeles Times, 12/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.