An Overview of Bioethical Issues stemming from Implantable RFID microchips.
An Overview of Bioethical Issues stemming from Implantable RFID microchips
It is always important to understand the reasons we subject ourselves to different technological applications. For example, it may be absolutely essential to have a cell phone. However, it may not be so essential that the cell phone be loaded with the coolest video games. Likewise, while it is very important for implantable device technologies to evolve, their applications would have to be carefully monitored.
RFID tags have been used for several years now in the Industry for asset tracking and inventory control. Even the clothes we pick up from a mall have small RFID tags on them that is used to protect the shopkeeper against theft and pilferage.In fact, RFID tags are being sold for livestock identification and branding in a very normal way. But we don't bother about it unless it starts getting under our skin.
In more pleasant times, wearing a medical bracelet would be a welcome idea.The medical bracelet or even a flashcard with our medical information would be absolutely essential in times of a medical emergency where our conscious participation in the treatment process may not be available. It is even welcoming that healthcare systems in countries such as the USA may have actually begun to encourage implantable devices that can track and monitor patient activity.
In many ways, such technologies would actually speed up certain processes. But, it is important to decide which are the processes for which the speed is required and for which it is not. For example, it dosen't mater much in a medical emergency if the insurance company blocks patient data sharing with a particular hospital owing to corporate tie-up issues or for a particular patient who forgot to pay his/her dues.
But just as my hopes rise up, my dystopian fears also crop up. Fears of a "Repo men" scenario resurge when I hear that Medical devices such as pacemakers and cosmetic devices such as breast implants are being enabled with RFID tags to enable smoother processing of patient data. Insurance companies are going to have a field day with scanning all their defaulters very quickly. Naturally, legislations would be in place to protect the interests of individuals against threats to their inherent privacy and dignity.For example, states in USA have passed bills protecting against forced implantation of microchips (California Bans Forced RFID Tagging of Humans).
I do not wish to state that we avoid allowing technology getting under our skin. However, we should only become aware of the amount of control we have over the electronics that we allow to merge with our biological bodies. So far, the biological body with which we are born is the last frontier for any sense of self-identity. Violation of the human dignity with intrusive proprietory technology may only be allowed under dire or highly essential circumstances. I just hope it does not become as casual as sharing personal information on an online social network only to be gobbled up by info-seeking companies. It really has started getting scary now that technology is getting under our skin !!!