FLORIDA STARTS MICROCHIPPING ALZHEIMER'S PATIENTS
From News With Views:
By Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
September 16, 2007
"And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand or on their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." --Apocalypse/Revelations Chapter 13: 16-17
Close to six million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease this year. Although symptoms vary widely, the first symptom most people notice is forgetfulness that, at times, is severe enough to affect their work and social lives.
As the disease progresses, other symptoms include confusion, trouble with organizing and expressing thoughts, misplacing things, getting lost in familiar places, and changes in personality and behavior.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Vascular dementia, another common type, is caused by reduced blood flow to parts of the brain. In mixed dementia, Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia occur together.
All-in-all, Alzheimer's is a frightening disease with little relief in sight for the sufferer. Recently, Alzheimer's patients are being promised assistance using a medical microchip that is surgically implanted into an Alzheimer patients flesh. The controversial microchip creator VeriChip Corp. is at the forefront of encouraging this surgical procedure for Alzheimer sufferers.
Although in five years the VeriChip Corp. -- the US company creating microchip implants -- has yet to turn a profit, it has been investing heavily --up to $8 million a year -- to create new markets.
The company's executives have said their present push is the tagging of "high-risk" patients -- diabetics and people with heart conditions or Alzheimer's disease.
In a medical emergency, hospital staff could wave a reader over a patient's arm, get an ID number, and then, via the Internet, enter a company database and pull up the person's identity and medical history.
To doctors, a "starter kit" -- complete with 10 hypodermic syringes, 10 VeriChips and a reader -- costs $1,400, according to information on the Verichip web site. To patients, a microchip implant means a $200, out-of-pocket expense to their physician. Presently, chip implants aren't covered by private healthcare insurance companies, or by Medicare and Medicaid.
For almost two years, the company has been offering hospitals free scanners, but acceptance has been limited. According to the company's most recent SEC quarterly filing, 515 hospitals have pledged to take part in the VeriMed network, yet only 100 have actually been equipped and trained to use the system.
Some patients and their families are wondering why they should abandon noninvasive tags such as MedicAlert, a low-tech bracelet that warns paramedics if patients have serious allergies or a chronic medical condition for the microchip implants.
In early September, up to 200 Alzheimer's patients living in the Palm Beach, Florida area were implanted with the microchip by the company VeriChip absolutely free.
The chip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, contains a 16-digit identification number which is scanned at a hospital. Once the number is placed in a database, it can provide crucial medical information. People are already lining up for the VeriChip, but it's already stirred up controversy.
The story, carried by ABC TV News, caused one reporter to ask, "Is Big Brother watching?"
The relative permanence is a big reason why Marc Rotenberg, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, is suspicious about the motives of the company, which charges an annual fee to keep clients' records.
The company charges $20 a year for customers to keep a "one-pager" on its database -- a record of blood type, allergies, medications, driver's license data and living-will directives. For $80 a year, it will keep an individual's full medical history. In recent days, there have been rumors on Wall Street, and elsewhere, of the potential uses for RFID in humans: the chipping of U.S. soldiers, of inmates, or of migrant workers, to name a few.
Last May, a protest outside the Alzheimer's Community Care Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, drew attention to a two-year study in which 200 Alzheimer's patients, along with their caregivers, were to receive chip implants. Parents, children and elderly people decried the plan, with signs and placards.
"Chipping People Is Wrong" and "People Are Not Pets," the signs read. And: "Stop VeriChip."
Dr. Katherine Albrecht, the RFID critic who organized the demonstration, raises similar concerns on her AntiChips.com web site.
"Is it appropriate to use the most vulnerable members of society for invasive medical research? Should the company be allowed to implant microchips into people whose mental impairments means they cannot give fully informed consent?" she wrote.
As the polemic heats up, legislators are increasingly being drawn into the fray. Two states, Wisconsin and North Dakota, recently passed laws prohibiting the forced implantation of microchips in humans. Others states -- Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado and Florida -- are studying similar legislation.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma legislators are debating a bill that would authorize microchip implants in people imprisoned for violent crimes. Many felt it would be a good way to monitor felons once released from prison.
But other lawmakers raised concerns. Rep. John Wright worried, "Apparently, we're going to permanently put the 'mark' on these people."
Rep. Ed Cannaday found the forced microchipping of inmates "invasive ... We are going down that slippery slope."
Rep. Wright and many Christians throughout the United States believe the push to have microchips implanted in human beings is a fulfillment in prophesy.
"And he shall make all, both little and great, rich and poor, freemen and bondmen, to have a character in their right hand or on their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." (Apocalypse/Revelations Chapter 13: 16-17)
Another drawback to microchip implants is the suspicion that they are linked to cancer in test animals. Opponents of human microchipping are concerned with the speed with which these chips received approval from the (FDA) US Food and Drug Administration. Opponents such as Dr. Albrecht believe the FDA approval has more to do with politics than medicine.
Opponents believe the government is choosing the most vulnerable citizens for the initial implants -- Alzheimer's patients, the handicapped, retarded, the elderly -- but eventually every human being in the US, Mexico and Canada will be required to have the microchip implants if only to keep track of them and their activities.
"Under the federally supported National Animal Identification System (NAIS), digital tags are expected to be affixed to the U.S.'s 40 million farm animals to enable regulators to track and respond quickly to disease, bioterrorism, and other calamities," according to a Business Week article.
"Opponents have many fears about this plan, among them that it could be the forerunner of a similar system for humans. The theory, circulated in blogs, goes like this: You test it on the animals first, demonstrating the viability of the radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) to monitor each and every animal's movements and health history from birth to death, and then move on to people."