Microchip implant (human)

29/08/2010 22:49



The hand of microchip implant hobbyist Amal Graafstra, just after an operation to insert an RFID tag. The yellow coloration comes from iodine used to disinfect the hand for surgery.

A human microchip implant is an integrated circuit device or RFID transponder encased in silicate glass and implanted in the body of a human being. A subdermal implant typically contains a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information.

The first reported experiment with an RFID implant was carried out in 1998 by the British scientist Kevin Warwick. As a test, his implant was used to open doors, switch on lights, and cause verbal output within a building. The implant has since been held in the Science Museum (London).

Since that time, several additional hobbyists have placed RFID microchips implants into their hands or had them placed there by others.

Amal Graafstra, author of the book "RFID Toys", asked doctors to place implants in his hands. A cosmetic surgeon used a scalpel to place a microchip in his left hand, and his family doctor injected a chip into his right hand using a veterinary Avid injector kit. Graafstra uses the implants to open his home and car doors and to log on to his computer. Neither implant was the VeriChip brand.

Mikey Sklar had a chip implanted into his left hand and filmed the procedure. He has done a number of media and personal interviews about his experience of being microchipped.

Mark Krieger also was one of the first pioneers of RFID chip implantation. He has been interviewed on radio and TV and writes his own software to control and interface with his implant.

In 2002, the VeriChip Corporation (known as the "Positive ID Corporation" since November 2009) received preliminary approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its device in the U.S. within specific guidelines. The device received FDA approval in 2004, and was marketed under the name VeriChip or VeriMed. In 2007, it was revealed that nearly identical implants had caused cancer in hundreds of laboratory animals., a revelation that had a devastating impact on the company's stock price. Some time between May and July 2010, the Positive ID Corporation discontinued marketing the implantable human microchip.

The PositiveID Corporation (previously known as The VeriChip Corporation; Applied Digital Solutions, Inc.; and The Digital Angel Corporation) distributed the implantable chip known as the VeriChip or VeriMed until the product was discontinued in the second quarter of 2010. The company had suggested that the implant could be used to retrieve medical information in the event of an emergency, as follows: Each VeriChip implant contained a 16-digit ID number. This number was transmitted when a hand-held VeriChip scanner is passed within a few inches of the implant. Participating hospitals and emergency workers would enter this number into a secure page on the VeriChip Corporation's website to access medical information that the patient had previously stored on file with the company.

According to some reports, in 2006 80 hospitals had agreed to own a VeriChip scanner provided by the company and 232 doctors had agreed to inject the devices into patients who requested them. However, the VeriChip Corporation/Applied Digital Solutions was sued by its shareholders for making "materially false and misleading statements" regarding hospital acceptance figures. According to Glancy & Binkow, the law firm that filed the class action suit:

"...on May 9, 2002, defendants [the then Applied Digital Corporation] claimed that nearly every major hospital in the West Palm Beach, Florida area would be equipped with VeriChip scanners, an indispensable component of the Company's VeriChip technology. However, one day later on May 10, 2002, the truth was disclosed that no hospital had accepted a scanner, an essential device for retrieving the VeriChip's information. Following the May 10, 2002, disclosure, the price of Applied Digital stock again fell sharply, dropping nearly 30% in a single day."

The VeriChip Corporation had also suggested that the implant could be used to restrict access to secure facilities such as power plants. Microchip scanners could be installed at entrances so locks would only work for persons whose chip numbers had been entered into the system.

The downside is the relative ease with which the 16-digit ID number contained in a chip implant can be obtained and cloned using a hand-held device, a problem that has been demonstrated publicly by security researcher Jonathan Westhues and documented in the May 2006 issue of Wired magazine, among other places.

The Baja Beach Club, a nightclub in Barcelona, at one time offered a VeriChip implant for identifying VIP guests

Theoretically, a GPS-enabled chip could one day make it possible for individuals to be physically located by latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction of movement. Such implantable GPS devices are not commercially available at this time. However, if widely deployed at some future point, implantable GPS devices could conceivably allow authorities to locate missing persons and/or fugitives and those who fled from a crime scene. Critics contend, however, that the technology would inevitably be used for more sinister purposes. Governments could use implants to track and persecute human rights activists, dissidents, and political opponents; criminals and domestic abusers could use them to stalk and harass their victims;  slaveholders could use them to prevent captives from escaping; and child abusers could use them to locate and abduct children.

Another suggested application for a tracking implant, discussed (2008) by the government of Indonesia's Irian Jaya would be to monitor the activities of persons infected with HIV, aimed at reducing their chances of infecting other people. With current technology this would not be possible, since there is no implantable device on the market with GPS tracking capability.

Veterinary and toxicology studies carried out from 1996 to 2006 found that lab mice and rats injected with microchips sometimes developed cancerous tumors around the microchips (subcutaneous sarcomas). Data suggest that between 1% and 10% of the implanted lab animals developed malignant cancers originating in the tissue surrounding the microchips. Dr. Cheryl London, a veterinarian oncologist at Ohio State University, noted: "It's much easier to cause cancer in mice than it is in people. So it may be that what you're seeing in mice represents an exaggerated phenomenon of what may occur in people." London suggested a 20-year study of chipped canines was needed "to see if you have a biological effect." Specialists from several pre-eminent cancer institutions have supported such testing before microchips are implanted on a large scale in humans.

According to the FDA, implantation of the VeriChip poses potential medical downsides. Electrical hazards, MRI incompatibility, adverse tissue reaction, and migration of the implanted transponder are just a few of the potential risks associated with the Verichip ID implant device, according to an October 12, 2004 letter issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A patient could be burned if the chip reacts to outside source of EMF radiation, such as a strong electrical field or a magnetic resonance imager (MRI) machine. The strong magnets used in an MRI scanner could destroy the implant and cause serious burns, internally and externally. 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."

However, when the Mythbusters TV show tested a microchip implant in an MRI machine, neither test subject showed any signs of pain or trauma. Since MRI machines come in various strengths, it is possible that higher energy-emitting MRI machines may be more problematic. The model and make of the chip could affect possible outcomes as well.

Since nearly all implantable microchips are unencrypted, they are extremely vulnerable to being read by third-party scanners. By scanning secretly, someone could steal the information on a chip and clone the signal, enabling a hacker to impersonate a chipped individual. This could create security problems for building or computer access or potentially enable criminal misuse of a medical account held by an unrelated person. Also, the chip could easily be removed from the person, or the appendage containing the device could be removed.

Microchip implant in humans have raised new ethical discussions by scientific professional forums, academic groups, human rights organizations, government departments and religious groups. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) of the American Medical Association published a report in 2007 alleging that RFID implanted chips may compromise privacy because there is no assurance that the information contained in the chip can be properly protected, notwithstanding health risks (chips may travel under the skin).


Some Christians believe the development of implantable microchips and RFID tags may be a precursor to events prophesied in the Bible's Book of Revelation. They see implantable chips as potentially fulfilling the prophesy of the "Mark of the Beast," a mark containing a number or a name that an eventual world ruler will require to be placed on the hand or forehead of all people. The prophesy states that the mark will be required for individuals, under pain of death, and that without the mark no person will be able to buy or sell. According to Revelation, those who take the mark will be afflicted with a painful sore, and be subject to the wrath of God and eternal torment. The reward for those who are beheaded for refusing to take the mark and for refusing to worship the beast is that they will "live and reign with Christ a thousand years."


Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform Jewish beliefs hold that that cutting, piercing, or marking the flesh is contrary to b'tzelem Elokim, the notion that people were made "in the image of God," and therefore their bodies should not be altered. Traditionally, this prohibition has been applied to tattooing, however, since implanting a microchip also involves piercing the skin, it would likely invoke the prohibition against piercing and other body marking that arises from the Torah passage found in Leviticus 19:28: "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you: I am the LORD."

The Reform position may be represented by a responsum of the Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis that states "when we practice tattooing, body-piercing, or any other act of permanent physical alteration, we do not honor our bodies. Instead, we engage in an act of hubris and manipulation that most surely runs counter to the letter and spirit of our tradition."

The Conservative position against tattooing, which presumably extends to piercing and foreign-object implantation, may be represented by a 1997 responsum written by Rabbi Alan Lucas, accepted by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly. This responsum states that "as tattoos become more popular in contemporary society, there is a need to reinforce the prohibition against tattooing in our communities and counterbalance it with education regarding the traditional concept that we are created b’tzelem Elokim, in the image of God."


Islam considers tattoos, piercings, and other body modifications "haram" or "haraam," an Arabic term meaning "forbidden," because they involve changing the body, a creation of Allah. Thus the implantable microchip would presumably also be forbidden under this belief.

According to Islam Online, "...body piercing, tattooing, branding, etc. all fall in the category of unnecessary interference, alteration and mutilation of Allah’s creation. Therefore, no Muslim, who is conscious of his religion, should ever contemplate such activities."

In addition, the health risks associated with implantable microchips described above may also invoke Islamic prohibitions. "In Islam, all such acts that entail possible health hazards are considered totally forbidden even if they contain some imagined or presumed benefits; such presumed benefits are considered as being outweighed by the hazards. This fact alone warrants declaring body piercing as forbidden."


Following Wisconsin and North Dakota, California issued Senate Bill 362 in 2007, which prohibits employers and others from forcing anyone to have a RFID device implanted under their skin.

 On April 5,2010, Georgia, Atlanta, Senate passed Senate Bill 235 that prohibits forced microchip implants in humans and that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to require them, including employers. The bill would allow voluntary microchip implants, as long as they're performed by a physician and regulated by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. If the General Assembly passes the new Senate version, Georgia would join California, North Dakota and Wisconsin in banning mandatory microchip implant.

On February 10, 2010 Virginia's House of Delegates also passed a bill that forbids companies from forcing their employees to be implanted with tracking devices.



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