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J.R. Buchanan

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Digital pills and stigma

Update for 11/20/17

This blog post is based on an older one, from 2 years ago,, included below the update. I've also added an update to the original post, so that if people find it, they see the new one as well.

Well, the FDA has approved this technology. I've read several other blogs about this and have decided that this is even creepier than I originally thought, and even more stigmatizing and even insulting. Also as one blogger wrote (sorry I don't remember which one, or I'd give credit), "OK, you're asking people with schizophrenia to swallow a government approved microchip? Think about that for a while." One factor that I dwelled on, the use by parole officers has not been mentioned anywhere I can see.

One of my favorite bloggers, Natasha Tracy, just posted on this, her view is here: https://natashatracy.com/medicationtype/medication-adherence-improvement-abilify-computer-chip/

I think even less of this idea now than I did two years ago.

Digital pills and stigma 09/30/15

Yesterday a friend suggested I read Would You Take a 'Digital' Pill? Bioethicist Warns About Privacy Risk. The article describes a pill that reports medication compliance to the appropriate people. This is pretty creepy, but it has many possible uses. Two come to mind immediately. The pills could report to a database that you can access to monitor your own med compliance. Your Dr. could do the same. Not at all creepy for the first, only a bit creepy for the second. A third use comes to mind, your insurance company could monitor your med compliance and base your premiums, or worse, your eligibility, on the data they receive. Definitely creepier.

But what is the example med they use (the pill being tested by the manufacturer)? Abilify, an anti-psychotic. Fair enough, no matter where you stand on court ordered medication/AOT, this isn't really a significant change, your compliance needs to be monitored. I'm certainly not going to get into the AOT discussion here.

Here's the stigmatizing part. They suggest that the client's probation officer be the recipient of this information. Again, fair enough, that would be useful information for court ordered treatment. That's not my complaint. My complaint is that the author of this article feels the need to list it as the major use of this technology. But why does it have to be the featured application of this technology in this article? Would one of the other more benign (but creepy) uses be more appropriate? Info for you, your Dr., your insurance company? Instead, they use the probation officer as a major example. This just feels stigmatizing to me, the implication that many people using anti-psychotics have a probation officer. In fact, people taking anti-psychotics are just ordinary people like everyone else, in general, no more prone to legal trouble than the general population...

What is your opinion on this? Let us all know in the comments!

As usual, I'll post future updates to my Facebook and Twitter pages. Feel free to follow or friend or message me.


mental illness, mental health, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, stigma

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