On February 22, 2007, the VeriChip Corporation and Alzheimer's Community Care, Inc. announced their plan to conduct a medical study involving the implantation of 200 Alzheimer's patients with a VeriChip microchip implant. The device will be injected into the patients' flesh for a two-year experiment to study the effectiveness and safety of the implants.
Alzheimer's Community Care officials have indicated that the microchip implantation could begin as soon as May.
Medical experimentation on Alzheimer's patients raises profound issues of informed consent. We strongly believe that cognitively impaired individuals should not be used in medical experimentation of this type.
Not only is injecting potentially harmful microchips into people who cannot say "no" ethically problematic, it is in direct violation of VeriChip's longstanding position that no one should be involuntarily implanted with their product. In its press release, VeriChip acknowledges that the patients being implanted "cannot speak for themselves."
Since cognitively impaired individuals are unable to give informed consent, their use in medical experiments is highly controversial. When medical research is conducted on human beings in conjunction with a university or research institution, an institutional review board (IRB) is charged with ensuring that the research meets appropriate ethical and safety guidelines. There is no such oversight in this case.
The need for medical researchers to obtain informed consent from individuals involved in medical experimentation was first established in 1947 by the Nuremberg Code. Since that time, guidelines have been developed to ensure that no one is experimented upon against their will.
The National Bioethics Advisory Committee has developed guidelines and recommendations on the use of human subjects with cognitive impairment in medical research studies. Here are some of their recommendations:
The Ethics Of Research With Subjects Who Have Dementia http://onlineethics.org/reseth/mod/ADreseth.html
The National Bioethics Advisory Commission's report on Research Involving
Persons With Mental Disorders That May Affect Decisionmaking Capacity