One use of the radio frequency identification chip in recent months has been to help disaster crews identify and return the bodies of victims of Hurricane Katrina. VeriChip, a Florida company, donated the RFID chips in a new sort of venture. The company has supplied hospitals with the chips mainly as a way to track live patients.
The use of RFID chips in people is a controversial issue, mainly on privacy and religious grounds. But Gary Hargrove, coroner of Mississippi’s Harrison County, began using the chips to speed up the process in the wake of the tremendous loss of life. This method of identification proved easier to use than other methods of body tracking.
A chip was injected under the skin of a body’s left shoulder and encoded with a 16-digit number that included identification marks of height, weight, hair, eyes, and clothing. This information was then input into a computer system, making sorting and identification even easier.
It takes away the human error that can occur because we all make mistakes,” Hargrove said. “But this is…just one more step to alleviate the possibility of an error occurring where you give the wrong person to the wrong family.”
Hargrove stressed that the project was a one-time endeavor and that the coroner’s office had no other plans to use RFID chips.