Aug. 28, 2007 — -- For families of the nearly 5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer's disease, keeping their loved ones safe is a major concern.
In response to such concerns, a Florida-based company has developed an FDA-approved microchip that can be implanted in an Alzheimer's patient's arm, allowing critical medical details to be accessed instantly.
Up to 200 Alzheimer's patients living near Palm Beach, Fla., will be implanted with the VeriChip for free in the next week.
The chip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, contains a 16-digit identification number which is scanned at a hospital. Once the number is placed in a database, it can provide crucial medical information.
People are already lining up for the VeriChip, but it's already stirred up controversy.
David and Ida Frankel have been married an unbelievable 73 years. Seven years ago, Ida was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"She was being very forgetful, repeating questions over and over again," David said.
Ida was one of the first patients at an Alzheimer's center in Florida to be implanted with a VeriChip.
"When an Alzheimer's patient gets lost, once their arm is scanned, it would identify who they are and that they are an Alzheimer's patient," said Scott Silverman, the CEO of VeriChip.
Silverman stressed that the VeriChip is not a GPS device; it only provides code for a database.
Some privacy groups argue that the VeriChip, which uses the same technology as devices that track wayward pets, strips Alzheimer's patients of their dignity.
"I don't think that because it's useful in animals is a reason why we should do it in human beings," said Katherine Albrecht, the founder of AntiChip.com. "There is a distinction between an animal and a human being."