Chip implants in humans raise issues

July 28, 2005 at 8:33 PM

BOSTON, July 28 (UPI) -- A chip implanted into the arm of a medical patient may improve treatment, but straddles sensitive privacy issues.

Radio frequency identification chips, or RFIDs, could make it a simple procedure to learn the identity and medical history of a patient -- important in emergency situations when a person is unconscious or cannot communicate, Newswise reports.

Dr. John Halamka -- Chief Information Officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, and an emergency room doctor -- had an RFID chip implanted into his right arm. His medical records are available at the scan of an electronic reader.

But ethical concerns abound. Halamka admits that while the technology is not designed to release anything but patient records, hackers might be able to track an implant.

"Nothing is simple," he said.

An RFID chip is priced at $200 and a reader $650, raising further issues of cost-effectiveness.

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