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Piercing or Surgery?


So, I decided to donate plasma and having never donated before, there was a lengthy intake process that included a health screening and physical. Part of the screening process, of course, was disclosing any tattoos and piercings. What do you have, and when did you receive them? You can probably see where this interaction is headed...

Nurse #1 - "What piercings or tattoos do you have?"

Oh joy, how am I going to explain that I have LEDs, RFIDs, and magnets in my hand? After a long pause, I more or less slapped my hands onto the desk and just blurted out that I had several implants of different types embedded in my hands. This was followed by another long pause, this time from the nurse - queue awkward chuckling. Surprisingly though, the nurse was very much receptive to the idea once I started explaining that I and others used them to unlock doors and login to computers, store personal information, augment sensory perception, and, of course, be blinky. We discussed the similarities between human implants and pet identification chips, the feasibility of powered implants and the possibility of tracking, and how futuristic it all was. The remaining question, though, was how to document the implants? They were installed by a piercer but aren't piercings in the traditional sense. A needle was used, but the install site has completely closed up. They're not really a subdermal or a silicone implant since they're not "jewelry," but it doesn't make sense to list them as surgery because it's not really that either. Depending on how my implants were classified, I could be deferred from donating, which is why it was important to make a distinction between them being a piercing versus a surgery. We collectively thought that most likely, they should be listed as piercings, but that was left up to Nurse #2. I was forewarned that nurse #2 might be a bit more...skeptical. 

Nurse #2 - "Now, what is in your hands, and why?!"

Nurse #1 did give Nurse #2 a heads up, so I, fortunately, didn't have to go through the awkward introduction of the subject again. After explaining to Nurse #2 what they were and where they were, a call was made to what I am assuming was the plasma donation centers central office to ask how to document. Nurse #2 admitted that the idea of RFID being implanted under the skin did give her the heebie-jeebies but that oddly enough, an LED and magnet didn't. I explained that there wasn't exactly a whole lot of us in town with these types of devices but that there was a larger and quickly growing community of biohackers who were experimenting with these technologies. There wasn't an exact count or complete knowledge of every experiment happening at the moment either but that my research was looking to answer some of those questions. 

Onto phone call #2...which starts with the misunderstanding that I am a research subject that's been implanted! Yeah, I don't think IRB would approve of that one. So after clearing that up it was decided that my implants were considered piercings and to just note them as such. It was pretty standard fare from that point onward though save a few conversations with the phlebotomist about Deus Ex, Cyberpunk 2077, and Ghost in the Shell. 


The question came up from a fellow biohacker as to why I mentioned my implants in the first place. In my opinion, it's important that we, as a community, are open with medical professionals regarding our experiments and installs. Not only would it be unethical to not disclose them in this situation, but there's zero chance of normalizing augmentation without having these conversations. Implants aren't like a nose ring or pierced ears where it's apparent that you have one just by looking. So, while it can be an awkward and meddled conversation to have occasionally it's an important one.