Should Doctors Be Tested for Competence at Age 65?

Leigh Page


October 28, 2015

In This Article

The Case for Testing Older Physicians

Should older physicians be forced to stop practicing once they begin to slow down? Some experts in competency testing are calling for doctors to be evaluated as early as age 65, arguing that that's when physical and mental disabilities start to become apparent.

A few hospitals have already started evaluating physicians in their 70s for competency. When results show significant impairment, these physicians are required to get remediation, submit to limitations of their privileges, or retire completely, depending on the severity of the impairment.

Some experts argue that the cutoff age for these exams should be 65 years, which would have a huge impact on America's doctors. Owing to the baby boom, 240,000 doctors are now in that age group—a fourfold increase since 1975, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

In June 2015, delegates to the AMA decided to bring together stakeholders to create guidelines for such testing. But other physician groups are still on the fence, and the issue divides the medical community.

Proponents of age-based testing say it's no longer permissible to simply allow aging physicians to determine when they should retire, because many of them stay on after impairment sets in. But critics assert that younger physicians are just as likely to be impaired, and targeting older physicians is unnecessarily humiliating.


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