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Faculty Can Save Lives of the Elderly

By David A. Patterson

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 66 No. 4, Page 38

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Grandmothers of college students are apparently so empathetic they can put their lives in danger from worrying about the welfare of their grandchildren. According to a pioneering study by Adams that discovered the Grandmother Syndrome,1 they are 10 times more likely to die the week of their grandchild's midterm exams and 19 times more likely to die during finals!

Adams offered two potential solutions, although they have drawbacks:

  1. Only orphans are allowed to attend college. Adams points out the only way to keep the current college attendance level would be to create more orphans, but that solution exacerbates the family deaths problem.
  2. Stop giving exams. While dropping exams is a short-term solution, medical schools would have to close since there would be no way to distinguish applicants. Alas, the inevitable shortage of doctors would also likely increase family deaths.


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