Conservatives Spread Rumor That Healthcare Reform Mandates Microchip Implants

Last Updated Nov 9, 2010 3:57 PM EST

Conservative fringe wingnuts are spreading false rumors that the healthcare reform bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives contains a requirement that microchips be implanted in Americans before they can receive healthcare. To hear the extremists tell it, "This sort of device would be implanted in the majority of people who opt to become covered by the public health care option," according to an article posted on Current.com.

In fact, the extremists are wrongly interpreting a routine clause in the bill that protects the public from dangerous medical products and enhances patient privacy. And they're presenting it as a "death panel"-type policy to enslave America.

Their theory is based on a misreading of a part of the bill that deals with making sure that medical devices -- such as hip replacements and knee replacements -- are safe. Pages 1000-1008 of the bill create a "National Medical Device Registry." The language of the bill uses a lot of individual words that sound sinister to someone who knows nothing about the medical device business: "implantable devices" and "device surveillance activities" to "link data obtained under clause (i) with information in the registry."
The wingnuts have joined that language to recent news reported on BNET that PositiveID (PSID) (formerly VeriChip) has expanded its marketing of implantable health-record microchips in Florida.

But the language in the bill has almost* nothing to do with mandatory implantable microchips or the surveillance of patients. It simply creates a database to make sure that companies aren't selling knee and hip replacements that don't cause problems for patients later in life.

The FDA already monitors reports of adverse events in drugs and devices. For instance, a certain type of hip replacement sold by Stryker and other companies squeaks. The replacements aren't painful or otherwise faulty -- just noisy.

The device registry would require companies and health officials to collect post-market surveillance data on devices in an electronic database, accessible to the public, in order to make sure that surgical devices used on patients don't go bad months or years down the line.

The term "postmarket device surveillance" is merely the standard industry jargon used to describe the routine process of making sure a device is safe after it's approved and on the market. Sometimes a product seems safe and passes the FDA, but problems -- such as Stryker's squeaky joints or heart problems with Vioxx -- don't show up until years later. The bill merely standardizes the data collection process and requires that the database be electronic and accessible to the public (a lot of FDA post-market surveillance ends up stuffed into filing cabinets in Silver Spring. Md.). If you read the section carefully, there's actually a requirement that makes sure patient privacy is protected by stripping all patient-identifying information from the database.

Expect Sarah Palin to weigh in with an inflammatory Facebook update any day now.

Photo by Flickr user Jon Person, CC.
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