"There is a well-worked-out guide to conduct ethics for what is and isn't permissible," Karlawish said, calling Albrecht's objection to families' consenting on behalf of the Alzheimer's patients "simply not correct."
Jeffrey Spike of Florida State University agreed, pointing out that families are regularly called upon to make life-or-death decisions for loved ones who are mentally incapacitated.
But he worries because the chip program has not yet been evaluated by a review board. Such a board, Spike said, would need to look at potential risks -- both physical and psychological -- and let prospective participants know their right to withdraw by having their chip removed or deactivated.
"If this has not been reviewed by [a review board], then it's natural to be suspicious that it has been carefully thought out," said Spike.
Barnes said a review board will be assembled in the next few weeks, to be headed by Andrew Passeri, a board member of Alzheimer's Community Care and the former president and CEO of Staten Island University Hospital in New York.
Under the current schedule, Barnes said, the board hopes to begin the program in August.
But while it examines the potential hazards of a chip program, Barnes believes that in the ideal situation, consent would not be an issue.
She said families should start coming for services and resources in the early stages of Alzheimer's, when patients are still competent and can take part in planning their care.
Then patient consent for something like this would be unimpeachable -- it would be their own.