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<nettime> ID Chip's Controversial Approval
Alle Dieren Vrij! on Tue, 29 Oct 2002 10:43:23 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> ID Chip's Controversial Approval

Chipping people, a new market. What groups of people will be subjected to
this new registration technique? Old people, children, prisoners,
illegalised people, you name it.


Workplace Left Analysis Biopolitics

ID Chip's Controversial Approval By Julia Scheeres
02:00 AM Oct. 23, 2002 PDT

A surprise decision by the Food and Drug Administration permits the use of
implantable ID chips in humans, despite an FDA investigator's recent
public reservations about the devices.

The FDA sent chip manufacturer Applied Digital Solutions a letter stating
that the agency would not regulate the VeriChip if it was used for
"security, financial and personal identification or safety applications,"
ADS said Tuesday.

But the FDA has not determined whether the controversial chip can be used
for medical purposes, including linking to medical databases, the company
added. In the United States, ADS has principally marketed VeriChip as a
life-saving tool, saying, for example, that unconscious patients brought
to emergency rooms could be scanned to determine their medical histories.
Repeated phone calls to the FDA's press office were not returned Tuesday,
and ADS refused to provide the media with a copy of the agency's letter.
The decision comes five months after ADS made international headlines by
implanting three members of a Florida family with the VeriChip, which is
slightly larger than a grain of rice and emits a 125-kilohertz radio
frequency signal that can be picked up by a scanner up to four feet away.
In an interview earlier this month, FDA investigator Wally Pellerite said
he was unaware of any implantable device that was not regulated by the
FDA. Cosmetic implants - including breast and penile enhancers - undergo
a rigorous FDA examination to determine their effect on the human body
despite having no medical function.

Although ID chips have been used in animals for years, they may have
"inherent risks" when used in humans, Pellerite said in the interview. On
Tuesday, Pellerite referred questions to the FDA press office. "At this
point, I can't say anything other than to represent what the official
agency opinion is in this matter," he wrote in an e-mail. "Previously I
was free to give you both sides of the argument and to point out the pros
and cons to each. I am no longer free to do that."

Applied Digital Solutions has gotten into hot water in the past for
issuing conflicting statements to the media and to the FDA about the
VeriChip's intended use. In May, the FDA launched an investigation into
the VeriChip when the company repeatedly referred to the chip as a medical
lifesaver in the media, yet assured officials it was merely an
identification device. Tuesday's press release was also confusing, with
ADS repeatedly referring to VeriChip as a medical device despite the fact
that the FDA has not ruled whether the chip may be used for health

ADS president Scott Silverman did not comment on the release, but said he
was pleased with the FDA's decision. "We'll now go into high gear with our
sales, marketing and distribution plans in the U.S.," he said, adding that
the company would be focusing on the security and ID aspects of the

Silverman said security applications could include using the chip to
control access to sensitive structures such as nuclear power plants,
government buildings or private businesses. An example of an ID
application could include "chipping" an Alzheimer's patient who suffers
memory loss and wanders away from home, he added.

Richard Smith, a privacy expert who follows the VeriChip, suggested the
device should have been subjected to a full FDA review to determine its
safety. "Does ADS have any data for complications of VeriChips being
installed in animals?" Smith asked. "Are there ever infection problems or
auto-immune rejections? Since the FDA has chosen to not test the device,
the next best thing is to try to understand if there have been
health-related problems in animals."

Meanwhile, Leslie Jacobs, the matriarch of the Florida family chipped in
May, said she hoped the FDA would approve the VeriChip for medical use.
Both her husband and son experience ongoing health problems. "People who
need this should be able to elect to have it," she said. "The VeriChip
could help saves lives."

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