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Large Joints Feature

Source: Wikimedia Commons and Helgi Halldórsson
Source: Wikimedia Commons and Helgi Halldórsson

How Old Is too Old to Operate?

Biloine W. Young • Mon, August 4th, 2014

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Zack Budryk, a writer for MedScape, asks the question, noting that in 2010 the medical specialties with the highest number of over-55 practicing practitioners were in thoracic surgery, 51.6%, orthopedic surgery, 49.7% and urology, 49.3%.

An analysis of 460,000 Medicare surgical patients found that complex procedures had higher mortality rates for surgeons over 60 years old than they did for surgeons age 41 to 50. Budryk notes that the reason for this may not be related to the surgeons’ age but rather to older physicians’ reported resistance to adopting more modern tools and techniques.

Nevertheless some institutions are increasing their scrutiny of older practitioners. Stanford University Medical Center in September 2012 implemented a policy requiring physical and mental screening every two years for medical staff beginning when they reach age 75.

Budryk reports that Sinai Hospital in Maryland has founded the Aging Surgeon Program, which incorporates interviews, testing and physical exams for staff surgeons that are designed to catch developing problems early.

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One Response to “How Old Is too Old to Operate?”

  1. Warren M says:

    There is no question that a surgeon with dementia should be removed from practice but this is not the real issue here. The most pertinent issue here is who is behind this new “moral panic” and if you bother to look into it you will find that it is the Federation of State Physician Health Programs. The medical community at large needs to wake up to the fact that an illegitimate and irrational power has gained a stranglehold on the field of medicine. The FSPHP are physicians from the ASAM. The ASAM is unrecognized by the ABMS and their roots can be traced directly back to the “impaired physicians” movement in the 1970s. They have essentially usurped addiction medicine by imposition of force (outnumbering the only “real” specialty in addiction medicine, that is Addiction Psychiatry, by 4:1). This was met with willful ignorance by the field of medicine at large and that is the primary reason they have been able to gain power. ASAM physicians are mostly “in recovery” and many of them had their licenses revoked due to drug related crimes. By claiming they are in “recovery” and would devote their lives to “addiction medicine” hey were able to convince their state medical boards to give them back their licenses. Many of these physicians joined their state PHPs and now monopolize them. They removed competent and caring physicians who did not agree with the group think and corruption and threatened them under “peer review” statutes and confidentiality agreements. At the same time they fostered relationships with the FSMB and state medical boards under the “treatment” vs. “discipline” bandwagon and have become a power unto themselves. They are accountable to no one, have no regulation, and no transparency. The state medical societies and regulatory agencies have given them absolute power. Over the past couple decades they have expanded scope from substance abuse to creating the “moral panic” of the “disruptive physician” and the next wave is going to be the “aging physician.” The FSPHP is essentially a front group for 12-step assessment and treatment programs and the drug and alcohol testing industry. They are currently sending “disruptive physicians” to “PHP-approved” assessment and treatment facilities where they are using unvalidated instruments to assess “character defects” and polygraphs in referred physicians. It is all a scam and they plan to do the same thing with the “aging physician.” And if you find this incredulous then I suggest you look at the FSMB public policy statement on physician impairment. This irrational authority actually got the FSMB to accept “potential impairment” and “relapse without use” as real things. Yes a fake specialty got the state regulatory agencies to accept a fake diagnosis in physicians. In reality “relapse without use” is in 12-step philosophy “stinkin thinkin.” Do the homework. This is a harbinger of the end of medicine as we know it unless enough of us speak.

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