When Is A Surgeon Too Old To Operate???

The FAA requires that airline pilots retire at age 65. Should there be a similar rule for surgeons?  Check this out. What you will learn is that there is no simple answer to this question.  

Data on the topic are equivocal. Some studies show better outcomes for patients operated on by older surgeons, some show worse.  

What do we know? We know that cognition and other abilities decrease with age, but that variability on these dimensions actually increaseswith age. Thus, some older (?) doctors are still good to operate, others not so much.  

We know that performing some simple procedures might be fine for older surgeons, while longer/more complex surgeries might tax their stamina to a breaking point.

We know that some hospitals are setting up special programs to evaluate the competency of older surgeons. And that such programs are being met with significant resistance on the part of, you guessed it, older surgeons!

Bottom Line. SO. This NYT article clearly indicates that the answer to the question of when a surgeon is too old to operate is complicated and multifactorial. My hope and bet is that the surgeon himself is the best judge of his own ability, and that no doctor is going to knowingly put a scalpel to a case that he believes is beyond that ability.  

AND. My fear is that, like in so many areas in medicine in 2019, well- intentioned concern about older physicians will cause some august body to establish testing requirementsfor older surgeons that might not have appropriate levels of validity.  

I sincerely hope not!

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