Is your surgeon too old to operate?

It can be reassuring for some patients to have a doctor who’s got some grey hair and wrinkles – at least more reassuring than having one who looks young enough to be your grandchild. Many practicing physicians, like people in nearly every line of work these days, are in their 60s, 70s and even older. 

Experience counts for a lot in the medical field – at least as long as a doctor keeps up on new findings and technological advancements. If you’re going to have surgery, however, does that older surgeon have the steady hands you need? Are their reflexes and their cognitive abilities up to the task if something goes awry? Can they handle the mental and physical strain of a lengthy procedure? These are all valid questions if you or a loved one will be on the operating table. 

Studies haven’t conclusively proven that older surgeons have higher fatality rates. While we all slow down to some degree as we get older, everyone ages differently. 

Screening programs for older surgeons

What should be of concern to patients, however, is whether a hospital has a program in place to evaluate surgeons as they get older and whether other doctors and medical staff feel free (in fact, are expected) to report a surgeon whom they believe may no longer have the skills needed to perform surgery. As one surgeon says, “The public believes we police ourselves as a profession. We don’t, at least not very well.”

If hospitals started requiring surgeons to step away from the table when they hit a certain age, they’d likely face discrimination suits – and lose a lot of perfectly qualified surgeons. However, mandatory screening programs for older surgeons can and do help identify surgeons who may be harmful to patients or who may at least need to scale back on the number or types of procedures they do.

If a surgeon caused harm to you or a loved one, it’s crucial to find out what happened – whether it was due to age or not. Having experienced legal guidance can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve – and perhaps help prevent others from suffering harm.

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