Opinion | How Would You Feel About a 100-Year-Old Doctor?

With such a change, age-based mandatory retirement seems unfair, not to mention politically impractical. (It’s not surprising that the American Medical Association is staunchly opposed to forcing older doctors to retire.) However, it’s up to potentially impaired doctors to decide when to retire. Retirement also seems to be a dilemma. This is why mandatory periodic competency assessments are a good idea.

Of course, the tests used to make such assessments will have to be validated and vetted for transparency and fairness. The results will also have to be interpreted in the context of the individual physician’s expertise: For example, the vision or stamina required to perform complex surgery differs from that required for in-office practice.

If test results show significant impairment, transition strategies such as reducing workload, avoiding invasive procedures, and using assistants and assistive devices should be considered before compulsory retirement.

There is no published data on the number of hospitals that mandate capacity assessments for older doctors, but the number appears to be very low – perhaps a few dozen hospitals across the country at the most. There are obstacles to making such testing more widely available. One barrier is the doctor’s resistance. Last year, the American Medical Association, acknowledging the magnitude of the problem, published guidelines for age-based screening but did not call for authorization. There have also been legal objections. In 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Yale New Haven Hospital, claiming that cognitive and vision testing requirements for older employees violated federal anti-discrimination laws. state. (The lawsuit is ongoing.)

Rounding out these wagons is self-serving and short-sighted. In medicine, patient safety must be a primary concern.

Why not require a competency assessment for all doctors? Why only start at 65? Because a younger age greatly increases the likelihood of a false-positive result — practitioners are seen as impaired but are not, with long-term consequences for a fulfilling career. promises — as well as unnecessarily straining hospital resources. In addition, young doctors must pass periodic certification exams to test their knowledge of their particular medical specialty.

It’s not just drugs. Age-based aptitude testing should also be extended to other professions where age-related impairment can seriously harm others, such as law, accounting and even politics. treat. It would be neither fair nor appropriate for doctors to be selected for such an assessment.


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