Many people say that age doesn’t matter.
However, when it comes to the person whose each action determines whether the heart machine continues its regular beats or straight lines, age may definitely come into consideration.
Doctors around the world are aging and simultaneously staying in their professions, reluctant to retire due to their increasing financial pressures.
People began to worry about this situation 8 years ago, the year a 78-year-old vascular surgeon operated on a woman who was left with a pulmonary embolism. The doctor was unresponsive to the nurses urgent calls, and as a result, the woman was left to die.
The surgeon continued his job, unchanged by this incident.
Four years later, after the hospital workers had previously reported the doctor to the Medical Board of California, the physician was asked to take a competency assessment at the University of California, San Diego.
The results were both frightening and unexpected.
“We did a neuropsychological exam, and it was very abnormal,” said the director of the UCSD’s physician assessment program, Dr. William Norcross. “This surgeon had visual-spatial abnormalities, could not do fine motor movements, could not retain information, and his verbal I.Q. was much lower than you’d expect.”
The surgeon was then forced to surrender his medical license.
Unfortunately, these stories are likely to become more common as one-third of the nation’s physicians are reaching their high 60’s.
And although with age surely comes wisdom, a doctor’s intelligence surely does not shield them from aging’s unfortunate pains and diseases.
A 2006 study discovered that in complicated surgical operations, a higher rate of patient deaths is seen under the care of physicians over 60 years of age.
In addition, experts warn that there are not enough protective measures in order to prevent patients from being seen by a physician who should no longer be practicing.
Today, organizations including the National Patient Safety Foundation are dedicated to creating regular cognitive and physical screenings once a physician reaches their late sixties. Several hospitals have already inducted these measures, those opposition from “rank-and-file doctors” has seemed inevitable.
“I do not believe that diminished competence attributable solely to age is a significant factor in the underperformance of most poor-performing physicians,” said Mayo Clinic‘s professor of laboratory medicine Dr. Henry Homburger, 64.
Although this topic may continue its long going debate, most of the public can surely agree that a high risk operation must be performed by only a healthy, efficient surgeon.
We may only hope that money may not stand in the way of people’s well-being, and medicine may once again return to a field of dedicated, proud physicians.