The doctor who discovered in 2001 that a pain-relief implant could also trigger orgasms is still struggling to raise interest in studying it further.
Stuart Meloy, a surgeon at Piedmont Anesthesia and Pain Consultants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was investigating how the device could be used to treat woman who have difficulty achieving orgasm, but we reported in 2003 that volunteers for early tests were proving hard to find.
As of 2014, the massive media interest in the device has not translated into the $6 million that Meloy estimates would be needed to run a full trial.
A real turn-on
Health insurers do not cover the cost of experimental treatments, and approval from regulators is needed to license the devices for treating a specific condition, such as sexual dysfunction. "Staging an FDA pivotal trial is a fairly expensive undertaking, and that takes money I don't have right now," Meloy says. "Though it would be nice to bring [the device] to fruition."
Meloy stumbled on the idea while performing a routine pain-relief operation. "We implant electrodes into the spine and use electrical pulses to modify the pain signals passing along the nerves," he told New Scientist in 2001. The patient remains conscious during the operation to help the surgeon find the best position for the electrodes. Meloy's breakthrough came one day when he failed to hit the right spot. "I was placing the electrodes and suddenly the woman started exclaiming emphatically," he says. "I asked her what was up and she said, `You're going to have to teach my husband to do that'."
Despite the limp reception for his orgasmatron, Meloy's work continues to bring relief in other ways: he co-founded the Advanced Interventional Pain Management clinic, also in Winston-Salem, where he has fitted hundreds of spinal implants to treat chronic pain.