With age comes wisdom, as the old adage goes. But advanced age also means an increased likelihood of physical and mental deterioration. That is why, for example, airline pilots undergo required health screenings and face a mandatory retirement age. Even judges must retire by a certain age in some jurisdictions. These regulations are in place to ensure professionals who perform duties that could put our lives at risk are in the best position to get it right.
There are no such regulations for doctors.
Consider these facts from a recent article in the Financial Times:
- 21% of the nation’s one million physicians are over 65, a percentage that has increased in recent years and is expected to continue to rise.
- An estimated 8,000 doctors with full-blown dementia are currently in practice, according to one expert.
- Approximately one-third of doctors don’t have their own personal physician, who would be in a position to detect dangerous signs of aging.
- A 2006 study found surgeons over 60 have a higher patient fatality rate than younger surgeons in complex surgeries.
There is no official policy to examine doctors to ensure they are at full capacity when they tend to the lives of people who depend on them. Is it any wonder, then, that surgeries are routinely botched, cancers are overlooked and negligence is a regular occurrence in the nation’s clinics and hospitals? A small number of health facilities have begun to implement their own age policies. Why haven’t all of them?
Doctors Have a Duty
Doctors take an oath to do no harm to patients. We have to trust them to make the call themselves when they have reached the age where they are at risk of making a grave error that could cost a life.
When they don’t make that call and people get hurt, they can and should be held liable. That is the heart of medical malpractice: Doctors have a standard of care to maintain, and we pay them and trust them to uphold it. When they breach that trust–whether due to advanced age or any other cause–legal action is the only remedy. It won’t undo a medical error, but it will send a message that dangerous negligence will not be tolerated, and it can recover the expenses incurred by those harmed by malpractice.
The attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola, LLP have a proven track record of pursuing medical malpractice cases with professionalism, passion and diligence. If a medical error has harmed you or a loved one, contact us today for a free consultation so we can assess your case and tell you what we can do for you.