It has been shown that younger and inexperienced physicians can make mistakes because of distractions. However, other evidence suggests that older doctors who are in poor health may also pose a risk to patients. Since we live in a population that is aging, the issue of aging physicians is growing across the United States.
Physicians do not have a mandatory age of retirement, nor are they required to undergo regular health screenings as people in other professions are required to undergo. Due to this, patient safety experts, as well as hospital administrators, are attempting to find ways to ensure that older physicians continue to be competent to treat patients.
Of the millions of physicians in the United States, about forty-two percent are over the age of fifty-five and about twenty-one percent are over the age of sixty-five, which is a significant increase from the numbers in 2006. Physicians, just like the rest of the population, are affected by aging. It has been estimated that there are about 8,000 practicing physicians who are suffering from dementia. About a third of doctors do not have a personal physician of their own to look out for their deteriorating health or for signs of oncoming dementia. This should be concerning since there are currently not any formal evaluations required to ensure that physicians continue to be competent to practice.
It is possible that older physicians, suffering from dementia, may forget necessary treatments or about their patients entirely. They also may not be able to diagnose patients. There is also a greater risk of older physicians suffering from a heart attack or stroke. This may endanger the patients of these older physicians during operations or caring for them in the emergency room. Any impairment of the physician could leave hospitals open to liability should a patient become injured or die.
There are some hospitals that are trying to impose regulations on aging physicians ensure that they are still competent to treat patients. Unfortunately, it is often the case that a physician’s inability to practice is not recognized until a patient has been injured or has died.
If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of the negligence of a doctor, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
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