Well I hope that I might be allowed to join the discussion at the pub the next time I make it across the pond. And just to keep things civil, I'd be happy to get the first round for everyone.
I really like the counterpoints you are bringing in to the analogy. You are absolutely right, one cannot replace lost years. But I do think that the skills which we could have developed and joy we could have experienced in those stolen years can be experienced later in life. Will it be the same? Of course not, but that does not necessarily mean that the experience with be qualitatively different.
"I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self...."
Healing D.H. Lawrence