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Aging doctors are not tested for competence

Patients across Illinois and the country are being treated by doctors who are older and older. In fact, the Chicago Tribune reports that a quarter of all doctors are age 65 or older. With the population increasing in age, many worry that patients could be in the wrong hands.

A report prepared for the 2015 meeting of the American Medical Association noted that while airline pilots and many in the military are forced to retire at age 65 in order to protect from mistakes more likely in older age, there are no such rules for doctors. Some hospitals perform their own competency exams for doctors who are growing older, but there is not any regulation regarding the testing of doctors, and the report believed that should be changed. But the debate, which has been around for a couple of decades, remains ongoing. 

Reuters reports that a story published by JAMA Surgery in July renewed the calls for developing a protocol to ensure that older doctors are still working at their best level. While some studies have linked patient death with older surgeons, but doctors cannot agree on what age is the correct one to begin testing. Others say there is not an accurate enough test in place to measure doctor competency. Competency tests in aging Americans have found that doctors lose their ability at a slower rate than those in the average population. But with time, even doctors begin to feel the effects of the years on their abilities. Patients, in the meantime, could be harmed by this lack of regulation, especially in surgery.


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