FDA-INDENTIFIED POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS:
SERIOUS QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT VERICHIP SAFETY, DATA SECURITY
Think it's completely safe to inject an RFID transponder into the flesh of an elderly loved one?
Although the FDA approved the VeriChip implant as a medical device in October of 2004, their approval does not mean the device is completely safe. We have obtained an FDA letter that outlines a number of potential health risks associated with the device.
Among the potential problems the FDA identifies are: "adverse tissue reaction," "migration of the implanted transponder," "failure of implanted transponder," "electrical hazards" and "magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] incompatibilty." Not to mention the nasty needle stick from the "inserter" used to inject it. (The FDA lists "failure of inserter" -- a bloody possiblity we'd rather not contemplate -- among the risks.)
To read the FDA's letter for yourself, download the PDF and refer to Page 3, Paragraph 2.
Of the numerous risks listed, MRI incompatibility is perhaps the most serious. An MRI machine uses powerful magnetic fields coupled with pulsed radio frequency (RF) fields. According to the FDA's Primer on Medical Device Interactions with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Systems, "electrical currents may be induced in conductive metal implants" that can cause "potentially severe patient burns."
Presumably, VeriChip-MRI incompatibility means that doctors will be unable to order this potentially life-saving diagnostic procedure for patients with VeriChip implants, unless the patient undergoes a surgical procedure to remove the VeriChip first.
The VeriChip's problems don't stop there, says RFID experts Dr. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. McIntyre, who is also a former bank examiner and financial writer, has carefully analyzed the company's SEC registration statement and associated chipping information and discovered serious flaws. It turns out the company's own literature indicates that chipped patients cannot undergo an MRI if they're unconscious. What's more, the company admits that critical medical information linked to the chip could be unavailable in a real emergency.
The instructions provided to medical personnel warn that chipped patients should not undergo an MRI unless they are fully alert and able to communicate any "unusual sensations or problems," like movement or heating of the implant. This conflicts with the company's efforts to promote the device to people who cannot speak for themselves, such as Alzheimer's patients, those with dementia, the mentally disabled, and people who are concerned about entering an emergency room unconscious.
Ironically, chipped patients may have to wear a Medic Alert bracelet or bear some obvious marking so they aren't mistakenly put in an MRI machine.
VERICHIP IDENTIFIES ADDITIONAL RISKS
Patients may also need a MedicAlert bracelet as a backup in case the VeriChip database containing their critical medical information is unavailable. The fine print on the back of the VeriChip Patient Registration Form warns implantees that "the Company does not warrant...that the website will be available at any particular time," and physicians are told the product might not function in places where there are ambient radio transmissions--like ambulances.
By signing the chipping agreement, the patient agrees not to hold VeriChip Corporation liable for any damages from any cause whatsoever, even if those damages stem from the company's breach of contract or negligence.
In addition, patients are required to waive any claims related to the product's "merchantability and fitness." The waiver paragraph as it appears on the form is reprinted below:
That's quite a lot of potential harm for something supposedly designed to help patients.
MEDICALERT OFFERS A SAFE ALTERNATIVE
If you're looking for a secure, non-invasive way to alert medical professionals to the health history and identity of a loved one, we recommend the Medic Alert bracelet as a safe alternative to the VeriChip. Given MedicAlert's 50+ year track record, emergency health providers, as well as police and safety officials, know to look for it. It costs far less than the VeriChip and has none of the serious health risks associated with implanted microchips.
MedicAlert recently partnered with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America to offer a special MedicAlert program designed specifically for Alzheimer's patients. MedicAlert's website explains that: