Of a Certain Age: When Are Radiologists Too Old to Practice?

Michael M. Raskin, MD, MPH, JD


Appl Radiol. 2018;47(11):6-7. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


"Under the guise of improving patient safety, several institutions have adopted age-related physician policies in recent years."

A 71-year-old radiologist in another state called to tell me that his hospital just informed him that he would have to submit to mandatory annual cognitive testing and competency evaluation starting at age 72 or risk losing his medical staff privileges.

"Isn't that age discrimination?" he asked. "I thought that was illegal."

Yes, it is age discrimination, I told him, but no, it isn't illegal.

And it can also happen to you.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects individuals who are 40 years or older from age discrimination in employment, including mandatory retirement ages. The ADEA limits the ability of employers to make age-related decisions unless it can be established that age is a "bona fide occupational qualification." Such an exception would be when public safety may be at stake. For example, the courts have mandated the airline industry to enforce mandatory retirement of pilots. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) provides a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. To have a disability under the ADA, you must have a physical or mental impairment. However, not everything that restricts your activities qualifies as an impairment. The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disability, but instead it has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. Therefore, some people with age-related impairments will have a disability under the ADA and some will not. Aging, by itself, is not an impairment, but a person who has a medical condition often associated with age has an impairment based on the medical condition. However, a person does not have an impairment solely because of his or her age.[1]