Family chipper about its microchip implants
By Leslie Jacobs

On Friday, my family will become the first in history to "get chipped" - that is to say, my husband, our son and I will each have a tiny microchip inserted just under the skin near our shoulders.

Ever since our desire to get chipped was first reported, we've found ourselves at the center of a media whirlwind. Not all of the coverage has been positive. Because we want our medical and other information to be accessible in an emergency, we've been likened to Star Trek cyborgs and fussed over by those worried we're opening the door for Big Brother and an invasion of privacy.

But for our family, getting chipped makes excellent sense. Also, we may be at the vanguard of a health-care revolution - one that reduces medical mistakes and promises increased safety, security and peace of mind.

Our microchip story started last December, when our tech-savvy 14-year-old son, Derek, and I were watching the morning news. The show featured an interesting story about a new implantable "VeriChip," produced by Applied Digital Solutions that provides instant access to medical information. Derek immediately jumped up and said: "Mom, I want to be the first kid in the world with one of these chips. And mom, I really think the VeriChip can help save dad's life."

That piqued my interest. Years ago, my husband, Jeff, learned he had cancer. The diagnosis was our wake-up call about the fragility of life and destroyed our comfortable illusions about enjoying a blissful existence of good health and safety. We learned the hard way that anything can happen.

Jeff's complicated medical history and long list of medications made the chip worth investigating. We've experienced the trauma, the confusion and the frustrating delay of trying to provide urgent medical-history information every time Jeff has been rushed to the emergency room. Once the chip is implanted, health-care personnel will be able to simply scan it and wirelessly retrieve valuable records from a database.

I called Applied Digital Solutions and discussed our idea of volunteering as a family to get chipped. After hearing about Jeff's medical history, Derek's knowledge of computers (at age 12, he became the youngest person in the world to be certified as a Microsoft systems engineer) and my desire for security and peace of mind, the company agreed. It wasn't long before we became known as "the Chipsons."

But what about the Big Brother worries?

First, this is a completely voluntary decision, like installing a home-security system. Nobody's forcing us to use the chip. The database will only contain information that we want to be made available, and we will control who has access to that information and under what circumstances. In fact, we think that when the VeriChip speaks for us, we are exercising our right to free speech.

Second, this could be a matter of life and death, especially for my husband. In an emergency situation, we're convinced that the chip can speak more quickly and accurately than we can ourselves.
We believe the health-care community should jump at this opportunity to save time and lives and prevent fatal mistakes. Accidents happen, and tragedies strike unexpectedly. After 9/11, we now know that our lives are increasingly vulnerable and that we don't live in a safe, comfortable cocoon.

If we want increased safety, security and peace of mind, we need to take positive steps. We've decided that having a VeriChip is one way to do just that. It will be there when we need it and can't be lost, misplaced or forgotten.

So we're excited that we'll be getting chipped in just a few days. The decision has had unexpected benefits. All of this media interest has helped spark discussions of the problems with emergency medical care in this country, and our choosing to get chipped has helped our family grow closer. As one article put it: "The family that chips together, stays together."

Leslie Jacobs works for Florida Design magazine.