Would you want your loved one to have a radio frequency identification chip placed in her/his forearm? This is the debate that is going on at Alzheimer's Community Care in West Palm Beach, Florida. (AbcNews.Com)
The chip, which is slightly larger than a grain of rice, is implanted under the skin of the right forearm. Each chip will contain a unique 16-digit number that, when scanned in an emergency room, will link to the patient's medical records.Seems pretty simple and straightforward to me. Taking care of Alzheimer's patients, I've always found it difficult to try to get all the information that I need when the patient presents to the emergency room in the early hours of the morning. Going through photocopies of information from the nursing home can be very confusing and time consuming. And, family members are not always available immediately to answer questions.
"This whole medical trial … really raises some pretty important issues about informed consent," said Katherine Albrecht, the founder of the advocacy group Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.Officials at the facility state that this program is voluntary and issues of informed consent will be addressed with the patient and families before any procedure is performed. Ms. Albrecht continues...
"There are other technologies that are far less invasive and can achieve the same goal," she said.The article goes on to interview a couple of medical ethicists about their opinions about the placement of an identification chip.
Albrecht promotes the MedicAlert bracelet as the ideal way to solve the problem of Alzheimer's patients who cannot relay their medical information reliably. MedicAlert bracelets bear a recognizable medical symbol on the outside and have the patient's medical conditions listed on the back.
But he [Jeffrey Spike of Florida State University] worries because the chip program has not yet been evaluated by a review board. Such a board, Spike said, would need to look at potential risks both physical and psychological -- and let prospective participants know their right to withdraw by having their chip removed or deactivated.Presuming that the ethical and logistical details can be worked out (and I assume that they will), I don't see a problem with placing these identification chips in these patients. The wave of the future will be to somehow have your entire medical history easily accessible. I don't know if these ID chips are the answer, but they are certainly worth a try.
"If this has not been reviewed by [a review board], then it's natural to be suspicious that it has been carefully thought out," said Spike.