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Aging Doctors Put Their Patients at Risk

November 15th, 2017

Philadelphia Age Discrimination Lawyers discuss the risk to patients from aging doctors. As individuals age, their physical and cognitive capabilities decline. In many positions, this is correlated with reduced productivity and capability to perform job duties. In the medical field, there is an ongoing debate over whether doctors should have a mandatory retirement age. It is not uncommon for physicians to continue to practice into their 70s and 80s, at which point, their physical and cognitive decline can have a negative impact on patients. Following this debate, many health systems have implemented screening policies to ensure that the older doctors who remain on staff can provide optimal care to patients.

A vocal population of doctors oppose age-related screening, arguing that doing so is age discrimination. At Stanford University Medical Center, a group of physicians over age 75 fought proposed screening requirements, arguing that there is no evidence linking performance on cognitive tests with physician performance. Despite their protest against the cognitive screening, the group did accept physical testing and peer performance review. Doctors do not only have to be mentally competent to perform their jobs, but physically competent as well. Surgeons often spend hours in surgery, and a doctor must have the stamina to complete surgical tasks. Pediatricians and geriatric doctors often lift patients, making physical strength a necessary part of the job.

Companies Have Age-Related Policies for Doctors

Penn Medicine and Jefferson Health are two notable examples of health systems in our region that are implementing screening programs for older doctors. Penn Medicine recently implemented a cognitive screening policy for all doctors aged 70 and over. Meanwhile, at Jefferson Health, a prominent orthopedic surgeon and vice chair of the Jefferson Health board has asked his colleagues to monitor his work and speak up if they are concerned about his performance. He is currently lobbying for the company to develop an evaluation policy for its older doctors, a policy the system’s CEO also would like to implement. The CEO’s proposed plan is even more aggressive as he hopes to begin evaluating doctors at age 40 and then re-evaluate them again at age 50, again at age 60, then every five years for the remainder of their careers. Other healthcare systems, including Virtua and Main Line Health, have also implemented physician screening policies.

Currently, about one third of the practicing doctors in the United States are aged 60 years and older. The number of older physicians has only increased in recent years. In 2010, there were 75,627 licensed physicians over the age of 70. By 2016, that number rose to 94,969. Age-related decline in the medical field is a pressing issue that affects patients, doctors, nurses, hospital administration staff, and insurance providers.

Philadelphia Age Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Represent Victims in All Fields

Age discrimination can cut a viable worker’s career needlessly short. If you feel you have faced discrimination or harassment in your workplace because of your age, fill out our online form or call 215-569-1999 to schedule your initial consultation with our team of employment lawyers of Philadelphia at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. We are located in Philadelphia and work with clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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