Family planning to go wireless as Bill Gates helps develop new contraceptive

(Photo: REUTERS / Denis Balibouse)Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, smiles during a news conference before her address to the 67th World Health Assembly at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva May 20, 2014. The World Health Assembly, which is the annual meeting of the WHO's 194 Member States and is its highest decision-making body, took place from May 19 to 27.

MicroCHIPS, an offshoot of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a wireless contraceptive that can be implanted under a woman's skin.

This contraceptive, according to a report by PC PRO, can deliver a small dose of the levonorgestrel hormone into the body.

The Vatican has banned artificial contraception since its 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, so it is not certain how it will regard this new iteration of birth control.

The Latin Post reported on July 6, the Catholic Church has now decided to debate its doctrine in an attempt to better reach the mass of its followers, many of whom believe in using some form of birth control contraception.

Contraceptive implants have been around for years but this new chip has new things to offer.

One, it is longer lasting compared to other chips. Current hormone implants need to be changed every three to four years while this new chip promises to last for sixteen years.

The device can also be turned off by a remote control and can be turned on again on the wish of the user.

The device is also significantly smaller, measuring just 20 millimeters (0.8 inches) 20 mm x 7 mm (0.27 inches), whereas current rod implants are about 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) x 2 mm (0.08 inches).

MicroCHIPS has worked on chip-delivered, dosed medication for a while, until Microsoft founder Bill Gates suggested a possible contraceptive application to be developed.

Backed with over $4.6 million funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is hoped to have the device on sale as early as 2018.

The innovation comes at a time when governments and non governmental organizations around the world seek to bring family planning to 120 million women by 2020.

The project aims to start preclinical testing in 2015, but the US Food and Drug Administration is skeptical.

The US FDA warns that most medical devices are vulnerable to hacking.

In the June 13 Verge reported that the FDA expressed concern that a remote-control drug can pose danger especially if manufacturers do not take the necessary precautions.


Regarding the attitude of the U.S. Catholic Church, citing an Associated Press report the ABC website in the United States reported June 27 that the Vatican sent out a 39-point questionnaire on issues related to the family.

The document sought input from ordinary Catholics around the world about their understanding of, and adherence to, the church's teaching on sexuality, homosexuality, contraception, marriage and divorce.

The answers revealed a more liberal view of the church on the issues.

Confronted with this situation, Vatican officials were asked at a press conference if the church might change its position to align itself with the practice of most of its faithful rather than hold onto teachings that so many Catholics reject, the AP report said.

Based on Francis' own wishes to open the discussion at all, deliberate for so long and canvass ordinary Catholics for their input, "We will not close our eyes to anything," said Monsignor Bruno Forte, an organizer of a Vatican meeting on the family that will take place in October. "These problems will be considered."

The Pope has expressed the view that the Church teaching on contraception does not need to change but that they must be applied with mercy.

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