Surgery requires both strong mental and physical abilities, like fine motor skills, endurance, and the ability to make quick decisions and take action. The aging process can include fatigue, a slow down in reaction times, reduced eyesight and forgetfulness. So the question is, at what age should surgeons stop operating?
A number of high-intensity jobs already have an age cutoff: Airline pilots are required to retire at 65; some firefighters must retire at 57. Interestingly, there’s no standard retirement age or assessment to ensure surgeons are still able to safely do their jobs.
This month, the American Medical Association (AMA) moved to convene a group of physician members to come up with guidelines for assessing the skills and abilities of late-career doctors.
The AMA estimates that one of every four licensed U.S. doctors is older than 65, with two-fifths of them actively practicing. The organization’s goal? To create guidelines that safeguard patients, rather than impose a mandatory retirement age.
The Aging Surgeon Program at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore invites surgeons to take a two-day test that rates their physical and cognitive abilities, including hearing, vision and hand-eye coordination.
Critics of these sorts of tests and guidelines say they’re discriminatory and should focus on competency, not age. Others point out that physicians have the training and experience to evaluate their own health and shouldn’t need outside oversight.
What do you think? Should there be age-related competency tests for surgeons – or a standard retirement age? Let us know.