23
Okt
2004

Implantable chip prompts privacy concerns

The microchips have already been implanted in 1 million pets.

Privacy advocates are concerned that an implantable microchip designed to help doctors tap into a patient's medical records could undermine confidentiality or could even be used to track the patient's movements. "If privacy protections aren't built in at the outset, there could be harmful consequences for patients," said Emily Stewart, a policy analyst at the Health Privacy Project. The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that Applied Digital Solutions of Delray Beach, Florida, could market the VeriChip, an implantable computer chip about the size of a grain of rice, for storing medical information. With the pinch of a syringe, the microchip is inserted under the skin in a procedure that takes less than 20 minutes and requires no stitches. Silently and invisibly, the dormant chip stores a code that releases patient-specific information when a scanner passes over it. The VeriChip itself contains no medical records, just codes that can be scanned and revealed in a doctor's office or hospital. With that code, doctors can unlock part of a secure database that holds the patient's medical information, including allergies and prior treatment. The electronic database, not the chip, would be updated with each medical visit. The microchips have already been implanted in 1 million pets. But the chip's possible use to track people's movements -- in addition to speeding delivery of medical information to emergency rooms -- has raised alarm. The company's chief executive officer, Scott R. Silverman, said chips implanted for medical uses could also be used for security purposes, like tracking employee movement through nuclear power plants.

Stewart said that to protect patient privacy, the devices should reveal only vital medical information, like blood type and allergic reactions, needed for health care workers to do their jobs.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/10/14/implantable.chip.ap/


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