Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Civil Liberties versus Living

I got called out on a search tonight for a poor old chap with alzheimers who'd gone missing. We get quite a few of these - old folks (and some young ones) who are not quite 'with it' get out from under the watchful eye of their family or carers and go for a wander. Fortunately this old guy was found alive and well, 8 hours after he'd gone missing; others have not been so lucky. Winter here is hardly severe - the temperature can drop to freezing in winter but usually stops a few degrees short of it - but for an inappropriately dressed (i.e. indoor wear) elderly person a few hours out in it at night can mean suffering from exposure; a lot of these people have medication they have to take once a day and the consequences can be dire if they miss it; and pretty much all of them are suffering from dementia or alzheimers or the like and are easily confused and lost. We often have a 12-hour time frame to find them before they start to deteriorate from the above (let alone just crossing the road!); after that we start to expect to find a body.

With this in mind, I often wonder why we don't use some sort of GPS-traceable tagging system, to be activated only when they go missing. This would increase our chances of finding a live and healthy person considerably. Detractors throw around the phrases "Brave New World" and "Big Brother", but if you consider parents can already issue their offspring with traceable mobile phones (so they know where they are at all times!), isn't this a more worthy, life-saving use of technology? Yes, the elderly and infirm have rights and pride - but if they were sane enough to make the choice, I think they'd choose being found alive, quickly.

We did a search a while back for an elderly person with dementia. The search ran for days and we found nothing. Three weeks later they found the body entangled in a fence, mostly submerged in a creek. Squishy. Not a lot of rights and pride left there anymore...

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