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Should doctors have to take competence tests as they age?

Here in Michigan, and throughout the country, professionals who have the lives of others in their hands must continually prove that they are up to the challenge. For example, commercial airline pilots have to undergo routine health screenings beginning at age 40, and they are forced to retire at 65. FBI agents, too, must retire at the age of 57. Medical doctors, however, have no such requirements.

More than 40 percent of the country's physicians are older than 55, and 21 percent of them are older than 65. Of course, age alone does not determine one's skills, health or capacities, but some are now arguing that doctors should take skills and fitness tests as they age to ensure that they are still fit to safely practice medicine.

As it stands now, there are no formal evaluations for physicians after they obtain their licenses. Most states do require continued education credits, but there is no uniform competence assessment.

This is quite concerning because, as the director of a program that does perform competency evaluations of doctors who are referred by hospitals recently estimated, there could be 8,000 doctors with full-on dementia out there practicing medicine. This makes sense as it has also been estimated that 3 to 11 percent of all Americans older than 65 have dementia.

A small but increasing number of hospitals are now adopting policies that doctors of a certain age undergo exams in order to renew their privileges' to work at the hospitals. Some, however, think that this is not enough and in order to avoid medical errors and medical malpractice it is necessary for an assessment system to be put into place that will test the competence of all doctors.

What do Michigan residents think? Should a competence and health assessment program be implemented for medical professionals?

Source: The Washington Post, "As doctors grow older, hospitals begin requiring them to prove they're still fit," Sandra G. Boodman, Dec. 10, 2012

  • Our Michigan personal injury law firm's website has more information about medical malpractice.

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