Oh Lordy, hang on tight -this story is fat. Recent reports show a possible link between implanted microchips in mice and malignant tumors. Yeah so, who cares? Well, get this, certain government officials, medical groups, and the FDA have been pushing this technology for human use – that is, implanting glass covered microchips into humans for the purpose of storing medical records.

Ha, ha, isn’t that the greatest? Implanting microchips into our arms for medical records. Is anybody that dumb? Apparently so – over 2,000 people have undergone implementation worldwide. Yes, yes just in case you need medical care and you’re unconscious – then your insurance coverage can be checked before they cart you off to the appropriate ward. Har, har, I can’t stop chuckling.
Anyway, some diligent researchers have found a series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, which stated that chip implants had “induced” malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats. This should be enough to warrant caution. But, oh no, not when there’s big money involved. Some of the major players in this potential scandal are the VeriChip Corp., makers of the implants, the FDA, and former director of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tommy Thompson.
VeriChip has projected a target market of 45 million Americans for its medical monitoring chips, and insists that the devices are safe. But not everyone is so sure. “There’s no way in the world, having read this information, that I would have one of those chips implanted in my skin, or in one of my family members,” said Dr. Robert Benezra, head of the Cancer Biology Genetics Program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
I couldn’t agree more, and as this story unfolds it really exposes some back room dealings that should scare you right out of your pants. According to the report (read it in full here), two weeks after the FDA approved the VeriChip device, Tommy Thompson left his HHS post and within five months found himself a board member of VeriChip Corp. He allegedly received stock options – lots of them – and about $40K in cash. Nice.
Thompson, of course, denies it. “I didn’t even know VeriChip before I stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said in a telephone interview. However, he did vigorously campaign for electronic medical records and health care technology both as governor of Wisconsin and at HHS. And the Law firm at which he is a partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, was paid $1.2 million for legal services it provided the chip maker in 2005 and 2006, according to SEC filings.
The take home lesson: don’t get caught off guard. There are powerful people who want to implant you with a chip. Letting this kind of thing slide might be very disruptive to the freedom of independent living. And as far as implanting chips: I believe that the only way people might be open to this sort of nonsense is by placing medical science up on a pedestal. Doing so leaves one susceptible to all kinds of funny business, and mistakes. The responsible and informed consumer, though, can circumvent these kinds of things by being aware of what’s going on in the world of health. Face it – health policy affects us all – so you may as well take part in the decision making process, otherwise somebody else is going to do it for you.
Interestingly, in a TV interview while still on the board of VeriChip, Thompson was explaining the benefits and the ease of being chipped when an interviewer interrupted:
“I’m sorry, sir. Did you just say you would get one implanted in your arm?”
“Absolutely,” Thompson replied. “Without a doubt.”
“No concerns at all?”
However, as of today, Thompson has yet to be chipped himself.
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