New technology too advanced for own good
the Daily Collegian | October 18, 2004
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Applied Digital Solutions, a technology company based in Florida, to market microchips intended for implantation under the skin in humans to allow easier access for a person's medical records. This concept has been met with much hesitation, especially when seen from the point of view that Orwell had brought up with his novel 1984 which depicted Big Brother watching over everyone at all times. This technology, however, can be most helpful in saving a person's life when it comes to paramedics and EMTs making split-second decisions. With all the potential and theoretical good it could bring to the world of emergency medicine, the scary proceedings that could result from this kind of technology are far too dangerous for society to explore.
Going by the theory that Applied Digital has, the benefits in emergency medicine that this product has to offer are too great to ignore. According to the New York Times, the chip would be implanted under the skin of a person's arm or hand via syringe and would not contain any detailed medical records, but rather, a number which would be linked to a medical directory. The medical records, which would contain information about the patient concerning their blood type, drug histories, and major surgeries/diseases the patient has had or currently has, would be updated quite frequently and very easily. The device used by emergency medical personnel to read the exclusive 16-digit number on each chip would be a handheld radio scanner.
This technology could be very useful when used with the intention that it was approved for. If a person passes out while jogging one day, EMTs and paramedics would still be able to find out the person's drug allergies, past medical history, and current medications even with the patient unconscious. Thus, all the appropriate medical treatments could be administered without worrying about the patient having an allergic reaction to a drug and, even possibly, determining what caused the patient to pass out based on their past medical history (ex: if the patient is hypoglycemic and their glucose level dropped too low which accounted for them going unconscious). The VeriChip, as the implanted microchip is commonly called, could greatly decrease the amount of malpractice encountered in the field.
However, with all the good and promise the VeriChip holds for emergency medicine, the thought and future prospects of where the implanted chip will lead society in years too come is too frightening when it comes to maintaining people's privacies. One major concern brought up by the prospect of the VeriChip is that this technology is currently being used as a security feature. Rafael Macedo de la Concha, the attorney general of Mexico, has received, in addition to many of his subordinates, an implanted chip controlling security access to a secure room containing highly-confidential documents vital in Mexico's battle with the drug cartels. If this technology continues to expand with its methods of use, we will soon be checking out library books by scanning our wrists instead of our library cards.
While the intentions are certainly noble with regards to the emergency medical profession, the logistics of the VeriChip are taking us into worlds that have only been seen in novels such as 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and in movies such as Gattica and Minority Report. The fear of the chip being implanted in people is centered on the idea of authorities using it to keep track of its citizens. And while this may not necessarily be the case yet, the foot is in the door and this scenario is inevitable if this technology is further developed and made readily available through implantations in humans.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian Editorial Board.