TUCSON, Ariz., June 11, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a vote without debate at its annual meeting, the American Medical Association agreed to develop guidelines to assess the physical and mental health of older physicians and review their treatment of patients. It is suggested that older physicians may be incompetent and harm their patients.
Some occupations, such as piloting commercial aircraft, have a mandatory retirement age. Doctors decide for themselves when and whether to retire.
"Practicing medicine is not like controlling a machine in which hundreds could die instantly if a pilot's reflexes are not optimal," states Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). "Doctors deal with one patient at a time. Most situations are not instantly life-threatening, and years of experience and good judgment count, not lightning reflexes and physical prowess."
Older doctors, especially surgeons, scale back their practices as needed. "Do a few doctors, young or old, do procedures they can't handle?" asks Dr. Orient. "Perhaps. But who is to sit in judgment on when their skills have begun to slip?"
In the past, specialty board certification was for life. Older physicians were "grandfathered" when boards started to require periodic recertification, and thus escaped a costly and onerous process that has never been shown to improve care.
"One thing is known for certain about the testing industry," Orient states. "It makes millions of dollars for the self-certified experts." The prospective "market"—240,000 doctors over 65, is enormous.
As the AMA acknowledges, one-fourth of U.S. doctors are now older than 65. If they were required to retire, who would do their work?
Radical changes are occurring in medical education and medical ethics, Orient points out. Testing would give a pretext for sidelining doctors who follow the old-time ethics of putting patients first, not the population or herd, and who do not slavishly follow bureaucratically established protocols.
"It is far more lucrative to judge doctors than to represent them," Orient observes. "As AMA membership falls, it appears to be looking for a new mission."
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, founded in 1943 to preserve private medicine and the patient-physician relationship.
SOURCE Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)