Bioethics Discussion Blog: When Should Doctors Retire?

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

When Should Doctors Retire?

OK, here is the question I would like to put to my visitors: when should doctors retire from practice and the treating of patients? The matter of when to retire is becoming a more important issue in the United States where healthcare reform associated with increasing medical coverage for previously uncovered public is going to require more physicians available for their care. Of course, most decisions to retire are made by physicians themselves based on health issues or emotional or physical burn-out or their desire to spend more time with their family or other life pleasures. However, should this be a judgment only made by the doctor or should rules be set by patients, politicians, courts (that is by society) and directed to medical regulatory boards for enforcement?

If there is no age set by law, should there be? At what age? If compulsory retirement is set by society and there is no specific age set, what other criteria should society use to say to the doctor “it’s time for you to begin another life”? If the doctor is not frankly demented then should retirement be triggered by the number of malpractice suits or the number of complaints to medical boards by patients, serious professional ethical or legal issues or failure to pass some tests of proficiency and knowledge periodically required to be taken? If a doctor does not fully meet the minimal test scores, would that automatically mean “you’re out” or could doctors still participate in medical care but with lesser degrees of responsibility? Should all such triggers be considered final or should doctors always be considered able to be rehabilitated?


And finally, is a “retired doctor” of any value to society?

Any answers? ..Maurice.

8 Comments:

At Wednesday, April 07, 2010 3:33:00 AM, Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

Starting at the end: If one's "value to society" is somehow contingent upon work or career, then technically, what is the "value" of ANY retired person to society? Thus, my specific answer to that final question is: no more or less than any other retiree.

 
At Wednesday, April 07, 2010 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

"What is the 'value' of ANY retired person to society?"
I supposed being available and communicating with the non-retired about constructive issues which were learned and experienced by them while working in their profession. ..Maurice.

 
At Sunday, April 11, 2010 10:04:00 AM, Blogger BJTNT said...

The professional MD organizations should do more to prevent the forced retirements of MDs due to drug usage. It's a total shame when an MD loses his license due to drug use. It's one of two actions by the CAMedBd that bothers me the most since it could be reduced. Self-policing by MDs themselves could be productive. Is there a professional MD organization that has the interest to step up? Certainly the AMA has no interest since they are primarily a political lobbying organization. I have a feeling that organizing MDs is like herding cats. Except for politics, I doubt that you could get MDs to accept volunteer monitoring and control, even by their own. So, back to laws that are way too late.

 
At Sunday, April 11, 2010 10:46:00 AM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

BJTNT, physicians are involved in volunteer monitoring of their colleagues in the form of impaired physician hospital committees or in similar committees set up by local medical societies. The question is how effective are these committees in setting up programs which reduce physician impairment and how effective are the committees in, after the fact, reducing safety issues for patients and developing rehabilitation programs for the affected doctors. ..Maurice.

 
At Sunday, April 11, 2010 11:20:00 AM, Anonymous Marie said...

From what I've read, the biggest physician abusers of drugs are anesthesiologists. With their high recidivism rate, and easy access to drugs, why should anyone, let alone a patient, trust them with self policing after a transgression. Of course the helpless patient is always the one to bear the cost of an impaired doctor.

 
At Saturday, April 17, 2010 8:00:00 AM, Anonymous gih said...

Not only doctors retire but also other professionals because as we grow older, our memory, skills, etc will slow down and cannot perform 100% as like young.

 
At Thursday, April 22, 2010 7:21:00 PM, Blogger Bruce said...

As a surgeon pushing through "middle age," this is an important question to me. I have witnessed well-respected older surgeons embarrassed by being forced into a retirement for which they should have planned. Yet it happens.

I hate the idea that I will retire before my value as a surgeon is "used up." Equally, I hate the idea that I might work longer than I should simply because I lack the insight to know when it is time to pack it in.

Does the calendar determine that transition? Is there some objective test that will help me (and my colleagues) decide when it is time?

I think I will worry more about this...tomorrow.

 
At Friday, November 19, 2010 1:40:00 PM, Blogger John said...

What older physicians lack in the virtues of youth, they often make up for by judgment and experience. Population theory would argue for a variation at any given age. With limited physician resources, we should try to develop an effective way to re-evaluate older physicians--easier said than done. But an arbitrary age cut off is not a good answer.

 

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