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The answer seems obvious right? Who wouldn’t want to pick youth over old age? Everybody wants to look young, feel young, or at least be reminded of being young. Today, the question I posed doesn’t necessarily pertain to your own age. Rather, if the situation calls for it, would one choose to save a youth drug addict or a terminally ill, elderly person (with intensive care)? This question was brought up in a conversation with some friends. Apparently it’s a common or sample interview question for those looking to pursue the healthcare.

Although my education is not focused in the healthcare industry, I do find the question intriguing. Again, you and others might still say that the obvious answer is the youth. Who would choose to save a person who has less life to live than a person who has yet to even know how it feels like to pay taxes? Who would choose to let an individual forgo the frustration and difficulties living an adult life? Well, I would, but not for the reasons I just mentioned.

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Before I give my reasons, I just want to say that my argument for saving the elderly stems from a devil’s advocate point of view. Knowing how many people value young age, I find it interesting to argue against it. So here goes.

Statistically, how many drugs addicts recover. When I say recover I mean make a full recovery with no relapse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse nearly 40–60% of drug addiction patients relapse. There is no clear distinction between age groups in this statistic, but just from how we see the world and understand young teens, I will leave it up to you to determine how many young teens from that 40–60% range relapse.

Aside from relapsing, there are numerous other implications that stem from drug addicted individuals. Just to name a few, teens who abuse drugs likely are involved in illegal activities, become defiant and hostile, and get into conflicts. There’s a whole list of symptoms and health problems and behavior changes on this website. What these behaviors indicate is that teens who have drug addiction problems usually cause chaos in the immediate people around them. This includes students, classmates, friends, and family members. Therefore, if we just look at the positives and negatives between a drug addicted teen and a terminally ill elderly, the teen clearly takes the cake with the negatives. Needless to say, the statistics for recovery aren’t great for the teen.

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When I bring up the relapse statistics I alluded to earlier, we still have to take into consideration survivor bias. Survivor bias is basically whoever survives drug addiction counts towards the statistic. All the other patients who died from drug abuse are not included into the percentage of people who relapse from using drugs. In other words, we are biased because we only count those who survive and not those who die because we simply cannot include a deceased individual into a statistic that gathers information from individuals who are alive.

In this case, we look at the amount of people who have died. In 2018 alone, from a sample of 100,000 patients who suffer from drug abuse, 67,367 died. That’s basically 67% give or take. Of the 67%, 40,000 were male and the rest were female. Now if we take a look at the odds, 40–60% of drug addicts relapse and 67% of those who do no relapse and do not recover pass away. It’s unfortunate and sad to say, but drug abuse is hard to surpass and I really applaud and urge those who have overcome it to share their stories. However, the reality is that drug abuse does not produce favorable results.

For a terminally ill person, I don’t think we need to go over the statistics for survival… However, what I can tell you is that I personally know a former teacher who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Although the hopes may be slim, most of those diagnosed with Stage 4 become terminally ill. Right off the bat, if there was a chance I could say my former teacher who has been such an inspiration and help in my education, I would take curing her over a drug addicted individual in a heartbeat. It may sound selfish and biased, but if you ever had known a drug addicted individual who could be treated and cured or terminally ill grandparent that could be cured, would you not make that choice too?

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The point of the matter is that terminally ill elderly people who are facing death may not always deserve it. Some of those people may have been an inspiration to you, me, and maybe even people around the world. That same person may have been good most their lives and lived as humane a life as you and I. If that elderly person has inspired so many and have been apart of so many people’s journey through life, would it be wrong to save them over a drug addict who has been disturbing society?

Yes, I know I still have to consider the situation of the addicted individual. Were they forced to do drugs? Was it their way of coping with hardships? Regardless, resorting to drugs is not a sound answer to problems. And it may be because the individual did not have a good enough support system in their family and friends, but that’s just the circumstances that surrounded this particular individual. There is a reason why those statistics don’t show improving recovery rates for drug addicted folks.

But for the terminally ill? Cancer can from the most unexpected and untimely times. If there’s even hope to cure a terminal illness and allow the patient to live until natural causes (old age) take them away from us, that would be something I know I would want. Although we all die in the end, sometimes old sometimes young, it’s the way we go about our lives that can prolong or shorten it. Even then, sometimes unforeseen circumstances may change our live.

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So if you could save a drug-addicted youth or a terminally ill elder who would it be and why?


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