Airline pilots face a mandatory retirement age of 65.
Their counterparts in the control tower have to hang it up at 56.
FBI agents must retire by age 57.
Even lighthouse keepers police themselves with a set retirement age of 65.
Physicians and, more specifically, surgeons (along with U.S. Supreme Court justices and the pope) don’t currently face a mandatory retirement age.
Surgeons are healthier and living longer than ever before and are choosing to practice into their senior years for a number of personal and even financial reasons. Many surgeons continue to operate successfully and make positive contributions to medicine well into their 70s and beyond. However, subtle cognitive or physical changes that could become barriers to safe practice are often difficult to identify.
Safeguards are needed to not only protect patients from unsafe surgeons, but to protect surgeons and hospitals from liability risk.
Current methods such as certification and peer review are simply not adequate, and most medical staff bylaws do not even address the issue of aging surgeons. Unfortunately, a patient death or serious negative event are currently the only things that prompt action to prevent a surgeon from practicing.
The Aging Surgeon Program at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore has been developed to offer a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, objective and confidential evaluation of physical and cognitive function for surgeons.
The revolutionary new program is designed to protect patients from unsafe surgeons and guard surgeons from arbitrary or unreliable methods of assessing competence or cognitive capacity. Hospital administrators are already lauding the evaluation as a valuable risk management tool that will help them further reduce liability risk.
The program recognizes that while human faculties undoubtedly diminish with age, chronologic age alone is not a fair determinant of a surgeon’s ability to perform his or her duties. The evaluation offers a balanced assessment of a surgeon’s functional age as determined by his or her physical and cognitive capacity and also identify treatable medical causes of impairment.
Patients and society in general take for granted that medical institutions have policies in place to guard against surgeons continuing to practice into their senior years despite diminished abilities. The Aging Surgeon Program has been established as a pioneering resource for hospitals and health systems throughout the country to fulfill their ethical and professional duty to police their surgical staffs on this critical and burgeoning issue.
Program founder, Mark R. Katlic, M.D., MMM, FACS, and his multidisciplinary team thank you for your interest in this important initiative and welcome your questions and feedback. Click here to contact us.
If you have questions about The Aging Surgeon Program at Sinai Hospital please contact JoAnn Coleman at 410-601-5719.