The Implications of Implanted Chips

In June of 2007, the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs stated, “RFID tags may promote the timely identification of patients and expedite access to their medical information. As a result, these devices can improve the continuity and coordination of care with resulting reduction in adverse drug events and other medical errors.”

Approved by the FDA in 2004 and marketed by the VeriChip Corporation, the VeriChip is a microchip about twice the length of a grain of rice. It is implanted below the skin and above the triceps area of the patient’s right arm. The procedure can be performed in a doctor’s office after a local anesthetic is given to numb the area.

The VeriChip contains a 16-digit number that, once scanned at the right frequency, can provide information on the patient’s health. The subscriber controls information in the database. A VeriChip reader is needed to gain access to the information in the database. Hospitals who become part of the system are provided with a secure logon, and a record is made anytime anyone accesses a subscriber’s information.

Potential medical complications of chip insertion are infection of the tissue at the site of implantation and migration of the chip. There have been studies that have shown a small risk of tumors in small lab animals that were implanted with RFID’s, but there is no evidence that VeriChip has ever caused such a problem.

One of the biggest medical concerns with the VeriChip is that patients who have one implanted may not be able to undergo an MRI. A MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a valuable test that can image different tissues and does not use radiation. Any implanted device containing metal such as a pin, plate, screw, or artificial heart valve, to name a few, can cause patient burns when the patient undergoes a MRI. The recommendation is that only VeriChip patients who are awake and alert should have a MRI exam, so that they are able to alert medical personnel if they feel any heating of the implant.

The other obvious issue, and perhaps the most important one, is that of privacy. Although the chip contains only a 16-digit number and one would need to be in possession of a VeriChip reader and an access code, it seems possible that others with no right to your personal information could find a way to get it.

Although undoubtedly designed with good intentions, the risk for abuse of patient privacy in this situation is difficult to ignore. Time will tell. In the meantime, one can always wear a MedicAlert bracelet. They’re cheap, and you can take them off before you climb into that MRI machine.


Sade, RM. (2007) Report of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. CEJA Report 5-A-07.

Holtzman, DH. Human ID Chips Get Under My Skin. BusinessWeek. February 12, 2008.

  • The VeriChip RFID is a microchip about twice the length of a grain of rice which is implanted below the skin and above the triceps area of the patient’s right arm and, once scanned, can give information on a patients heath. How well with it do with medical and ethical controversies that could arise?

  • zions_watchman

    There are so many privacy issues that could arise from this. Tracking is one. Should the government decide to have this chip be not only your ID but the access to your money and what-have-you I can only imagine all the different complications that could arise from that. And what if you end up on a terror watch list through no fault of your own. What if all the sudden your chip gets turned off? Good grief there are so many problems with this idea.

  • R U READY?

    Only the beginning…..Does “ANYONE” read the Bible anymore??? Or even ‘BELIEVE”???? Ever heard about the ‘Mark of the Beast’?

  • theMessenger

    And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image to the breast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

    And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six.

    …And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.

    The question is are you a terrorist? Well, then what do you have to worry about take the Veri(fy)Chip RFID in your right arm (hand) and scan your eye (forehead) and we all will know that you have nothing to hide.

    Just remember if you decision process is based on fear it’s not from the Father its from the father of this system. We are all so selfish. One day, maybe, you will look up and see that your are NOT god. Doesn’t the father of this system tell you, “you can do whatever, surely you will not die. You will be as god” (original sin). So must of us do this daily. WAKE UP!

  • theMessenger
  • I’m the writer of the Science Channel’s “Is This a Good Idea?” blog, and i recently wrote a piece about RFID chips and the potential concerns about proliferation of the technology ( ).

    I think that whenever RFID tags are used for transmitting information about people, there are going to be security and privacy concerns. Even if the implantable RFID tag only transmits an identification code for a database, there’s a potential for misuse if someone who intercepts that info also successfully hacks the database that actually contains a person’s medical data. Additionally, whenever an ID system is created, there’s no guarantee that it won’t someday be used for other purposes besides the one for which it was created. If a private sector RFID personal identification system became ubiquitous, it’s conceivable that the government ultimately could compel the company who owns the system to provide access, so that it can use the chips for identifying individuals and/or gain access to their personal information.

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  • David

    There is a subtle deception at work here-why not give people a medically coded bracelet-like the one most hospitals use now, but with a data chip attached, or a credit card like device that fits in your wallet?

    Apart from biblical references, the fact is that having a chip is dehumanizing. Itr treats people as though they are branded cattle and as we head closer to totalitarianism, it is not inconceivable that a government couldn’t abuse it.

    If it is outside the body: You are in control of who can track you and have access to your medical info. Inside the body: THEY ARE IN CONTROL.

  • Patrick

    Get the chip, and your Satans. Off too Hell you’ll go. Your choice. It’s as simple as that.

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  • maria campbell

    I agree with patrick kiger, there is no need to have this information on a chip inside our bodies. A card or bracelet would work just fine. It seems to me that there is a lot of tecnology that is being presented to us in such a way as to make us believe it is for our saftey, when it could be that :they” just want a tracking device on us. I even have trouble with “On Star” that is on the new cars for a year free, even if you discontinue the use of it after the said amount of time don’t mean they don’t still use it to track us.I think satan still has a hand in this. ” Try the new fruit and you will have wisdom like God” Well, there is only on God and he doesn’t need any micro chip to keep track of us.

  • ed

    veri chip is human branding. You can not see it with the eye like a brand or tattoo. It is seen with the electronic eye of the scanner. 400 nursing homes have signed on with the roam alert programme. Alzheiner’s patients are tagged with the chip. These are people who can not compantently speak for themselves and are tagged like animals or warhouse goods. Unethical and immoral. Visit the roam alert site:

  • Brutha

    Normal persons have their briefcase with them with does usually contain their medical insurance card. Even when the person is unconscious a doctor can still check whether they have a insurance card with them and if you want to store information somewhere, you could store it on that card.

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  • I am not opposed to biometric technology. My own hospital requires multiple passwords to access several software applications. It is tedious because every three months the pin(s) must be changed. What about a mere iris scan at the airport? I just returned from D.C. and I get tired of seeing elderly people struggle to put their shoes on again, tire of putting my perfume into a ziplock bag. Surely an iris scan could alleviate most Americans of such stupidity.

    As far a chips, there are concerns of technology in the wrong hands. The benevolency of government can easily turn on a dime to produce a monster even within a democracy, if certain freedoms such as the right to privacy are not maintained.

    What about encoding of information such as history of sexually transmitted disease? What if a person had a treated STD years ago and wishes the information not to be in the public health market? Can a chip give selective and pertinent medical data, as opposed to being all inclusive? Hmmm.

    Our technology will surpass the wisdom of application in the end.

    Tammy Swofford

  • Please reread the article. The chip contains a 16 digit ID number, the equivalent of a Medic Alert ID code, which requires authorized access to the database of VeriChip. It’s the same idea as microchipping your dog in case it slips out of its collar, gets lost and winds up at the dog pound. Another example of RFID are the radio ID tags (they go by names like EZPass) that some cars carry for paying tolls on the highway.

    Your personal data is not stored in the chip – it is in your medical information file at VeriChip. The main issues I have with VeriChip as an alternative to MedicAlert are:
    – It is an implanted device – any foreign object implanted in the body has to have compelling justification.
    – There are concerns about safety in patients who go through MRI imaging with an implanted RFID chip.
    – There are more cost-effective low-tech alternatives that already exist, such as MedicAlert and (in a hospital setting) simple hospital ID bracelets.
    – CMS/Medicare is already promoting Personal Health Record systems, and there will be pressure to link any implanted ID to a system operating under government control. This will breed distrust and concern about abuse.
    – If the ID number in your RFID could be linked to your identity by some third party (such as the government) and used for another purpose (like tracking your movements), that would be a serious breach of privacy.
    – Many RFID device can be triggered as you pass through a turnstile or doorway, so it is possible for the device to be triggered without your knowledge or consent.

    MedicAlert is a low-tech alternative with extensive infrastructure already in place, so there needs to be some compelling reason to justify something as intrusive as an implanted RFID device, especially with the issues it creates related to MRI use.

    Would I recommend and RFID implant for someone with Alzheimers’ Disease or other dementia where there is a clear risk that they may wander off without carrying any identification and need urgent medical attention? I’d certainly have to consider the circumstances, but would have serious misgivings.

    What other circumstances could possibly justify use of an RFID implant for a competent adult? Someone who suffers from somnambulism and is at risk of going for an extended walk in their pajamas and getting hit by a car? They would probably still have their MedicAlert bracelet or necklace.

    Other than the very special circumstances I’ve outlined above, I’ll limit the use of RFID implants to my pets.

  • If life was perfect, all people good and all computer systems robust, I think a chip would be a great idea. Sadly this is not the case. We live in an imperfect world full of human frailties and incompetent governments, therefore I am sadly sceptical.

  • Wisdom

    Ive always taken the time to think about things, my beliefs are based on faith so I don’t place to much bearing on what the bible says. My heart tells me all I need to know, from the experiences I’ve had in my life.

    The fear of dieing, the fear of anything is the easiest way to control people.

    Well I for one am not afraid of dieing its natural its real, when I am old and can’t remember or on my death bed let me go. All these years people have been built up to fear, fear of dieing, fear of loosing there dogs, fear of being poor, fear of being alone…ask yourself what are you afraid of!!!
    You’ve been set up, probable a lot of you figure you can’t survive in a world without convenience.

    Slow down folks, the problem with this world is you. Open your heart do you see what the left hand is doing while your being mesmerized with the right.

    There are too many people in the world and you know it!

    Dr.’s smarty smarty, money money. I understand you need to be paid and your intentions where good when you started, I also understand that the load on your back can make you more detached but do you really think a little device (ViriChip) that also has the potential of evolving into something like control, may put you back into the place where your good intentions started?

    I know instantly that chips in the skin is wrong wrong wrong, that is my heart speaking to me.
    You can threaten me, I don care. I will fight the good fight and if i die doing so then so be it, I know I died because I followed my heart not some monarch!

  • damian




Jennifer Bunn, RN

Jennifer Bunn, RN, is a registered nurse who has been practicing for over 15 years.

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