February 7, 2001
Web posted at: 2:33 PM EST (1933 GMT)
By Richard Stenger
(CNN) -- A medical implant in the works could offer women a chance to experience orgasms with the press of a button.
For the electronic orgasm device to work, a physician would implant electrodes into the spine and a small signal generator in the skin under the buttocks. A patient would then control the sensation with a handheld remote control.
Stuart Meloy, the North Carolina doctor seeking a patent for the device, thinks it could allow women with orgasmic dysfunction to resume normal sex lives.
The British journal New Scientist first reported Meloy's work in its upcoming Saturday edition.
The implant idea came about "serendipitously," said Meloy, a physician with Piedmont Anesthesia and Pain Consultants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "I was treating a chronic pain condition and generated a response I was not anticipating."
Meloy had implanted electrodes in the spine of a patient, using electric pulses to modify pain signals passing through her nerves.
Patients in such operations remain conscious to help surgeons place the electrodes in the best locations to relieve chronic pain. And in this case the woman exclaimed emphatically when Meloy missed the right spot.
"I asked her what that was and she said, 'You're going to have to teach my husband to do that,'" he said.
Reports of similar medical cases convinced him that the phenomenon could be reproduced.
"A question that remains in my mind is how long should it be used for, who gets to say how many times and for how long it is used," he said.
Benefits for disabled, ill
Clinical trials could begin later this year if Meloy receives funding from a major medical implant manufacturer. Scientific studies have already demonstrated the safety of the device, he said, since it uses off-the-shelf technology.
It won't come cheap. The price of the device would be about $15,000, not including the cost of surgery. But for women suffering from orgasmic dysfunction for a variety of reasons, the benefits could be priceless.
"There are lots of areas it might be effective. Certainly it could have a lot of use with the disabled or ill community," said Steve Sloan, an Atlanta sex therapist who often treats spinal injuries.
Women with paralysis, muscular sclerosis or who use prescription drugs that inhibit sexual arousal could benefit, as well as those with psychosexual problems, he said.
Julia Cole, a therapist with the relationship counseling service Relate, said some women should try it if they consider their problem severe enough.
"I feel about this the way I feel about Viagra. It may help some people, but they should also address the underlying reasons for the problem," she said.
Meloy has not tested the device on men, but said it should work the same way for them as for women.