If you’re one of those people who feels like every doctor you encounter is young enough to be your child or even your grandchild, it might surprise you to learn that the number of practicing physicians who are over 65 is increasing. That’s to be expected considering that more and more people are continuing to work – whether by choice or necessity – long past what was once considered “retirement age.”
While older doctors have the advantage of years of experience, age can be an issue when it comes to performing surgery. Even older surgeons who are relatively healthy have the normal physical declines we all face in sensory and cognitive functions. That can make it difficult to perform delicate surgical procedures and hours-long operations.
What steps can (and can’t) hospitals take with older surgeons?
Hospitals and other medical facilities have a responsibility to ensure that their surgeons (no matter their age) are able to do their jobs. However, instituting a mandatory retirement age or keeping doctors out of the operating room once they hit a certain age can leave them facing discrimination liability.
Too often, it takes someone reporting an incident like a surgeon dozing off for forgetting an important step for a hospital to take action. Some hospitals have started requiring that older surgeons participate in screening programs to better spot those who could pose a risk to their patients before they hurt anyone.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a surgeon who made a preventable error, it’s wise to determine whether you have a medical malpractice case. Seeking experienced legal guidance is a good first step.