Doctors age just like everybody else, meaning they can suffer from loss
of coordination, lapses in memory, and other symptoms of the aging process.
But does that also make them more prone to medical errors?
highlighted in recent studies, the symptoms of the aging process can range from obvious to much more
subtle. For instance, doctors may have experienced a hand tremor that
poses dangers during surgery, or a slight decline in cognitive functioning
that impacts a doctor’s ability to react to novel patient presentations
or recall key factors when making a diagnosis.
Research studies also confirm that aging can impact the medical care provided
by doctors. Adults in their 70s take twice as long to process the same
mental tasks as people in their 20s, according to a
Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions study published in 2010. In addition, a 2005
Annals of Internal Medicine review of prior research found that 52 percent of those studies demonstrated
a decline in physicians’ quality of care linked to advancing age
and the passage of years since their medical school and residency training.
Despite the risks, there are very few rules for dealing with aging doctors.
Only 5 percent of hospitals have implemented age-based policies for medical
staff, according to Jonathan H. Burroughs, MD, president and CEO of The
Burroughs Healthcare Consulting Network. As physicians continue to work
longer, Burroughs suggests that all hospitals make annual renewal of privileges
for physicians older than 70 contingent upon passing a fitness-for-duty
evaluation that tests cognitive functioning and other key skills.
Unfortunately, most hospitals do not have policies in place to monitor
older physicians. This often means that deficiencies are not discovered until
after they impact patient safety.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a surgical
error or other serious medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation.
For more information, please contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.