The Remote-Controlled Contraceptive Chip: Good Or Evil?
Scientists in Massachusetts have announced that a wireless contraceptive chip could be available to consumers by 2018. Eat More Cake gives you the low-down on what it is, and whether the concerns surrounding it are founded.
What Is It?
It is a microCHIPS device which measures 20mm x 20mm x 7mm, and stores a 16-year supply of the hormone levonorgestrel to be released on a daily basis. The chip can be implanted under the skin of the upper arm, abdomen or buttocks, and contains a tiny metal seal which is melted to release 30mg of the hormone directly in the body.
Levonorgestrel is already used in a number of contraceptives. So basically, it’s a similar idea to the pill and the implant – just it’s remote-controlled.
How Does It Work?
If a woman decides she wishes to conceive, she can easily turn off the device with a remote, and the chip would not need to be removed until the 16 years of use have passed. At the moment, current hormonal implants last 5 years at a maximum.
It will be submitted for pre-clinical testing in the US next year, and could be available to consumers as early as 2018. The project is backed by Bill Gates, Microsoft founder.
I have seen a number of people, including some of my friends, freaking out online about this announcement. This is probably because a number of articles have mentioned that researchers are still working on security features to “keep the device safe from hackers”.
At first I jumped to the same assumptions: “So someone can like, HACK my ACTUAL BODY?!”
But actually, after reading further information about the device, I feel somewhat calmer. MicroCHIPs president Robert Farra has said: “Communication with the implant has to occur at skin contact-level distance. Someone across the room cannot re-programme your implant. Then we have secure encryption. That prevents someone from trying to interpret or intervene between the communications.”
After some more research, I actually think the potential benefits of this product could outweigh its concerns. After all, if the chip could actually be “hacked”, then it would not be approved by health committees – so if it does go on sale, we can be assured that it will be safe enough for everyone to use.
For first-world countries it could be extremely beneficial, as it could provide more reliable contraception, would be better value for money and would use less resources in the long run (especially for the UK’s NHS). Farra added: “The ability to turn the device on and off provides a certain convenience for those who are planning their family.”
For third-world countries, there could be even more benefits. Recently an international coalition of governments, companies and organisations committed to providing family planning to 120 million more women in the world by 2020 – and this invention may make this target possible to achieve.
It has been claimed too, that this type of technology could be used to administer other drugs and treat illnesses. Simon Karger, head of surgical and interventional business at Cambridge Consultants, said: “The value to the patient of these types of implant can be huge, and we foresee a future in which a huge range of conditions are treated through smart implanted systems.”
As long as these initial concerns of “hacking” can be wiped out, the contraceptive chip faces a bright future. Watch this space!
Would you use the contraceptive chip? Let us know in the comments below.