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Monday, July 10, 2017

When Are Doctors Too Old to Practice?

By Lucette Lagnado
The Wall Street Journal
Originally posted June 24, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Testing older physicians for mental and physical ability is growing more common. Nearly a fourth of physicians in America are 65 or older, and 40% of these are actively involved in patient care, according to the American Medical Association. Experts at the AMA have suggested that they be screened lest they pose a risk to patients. An AMA working group is considering guidelines.

Concern over older physicians' mental states--and whether it is safe for them to care for patients--has prompted a number of institutions, from Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, Calif., to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, to the University of Virginia Health System, to adopt age-related physician policies in recent years. The goal is to spot problems, in particular signs of cognitive decline or dementia.

Now, as more institutions like Cooper embrace the measures, they are roiling some older doctors and raising questions of fairness, scientific validity--and ageism.

"It is not for the faint of heart, this policy," said Ann Weinacker, 66, the former chief of staff at the hospital and professor of medicine at Stanford University who has overseen the controversial efforts to implement age-related screening at Stanford hospital.

A group of doctors has been battling Stanford's age-based physician policies for the past five years, contending they are demeaning and discriminatory. The older doctors got the medical staff to scrap a mental-competency exam aimed at testing for cognitive impairment. Most, like Frank Stockdale, an 81-year-old breast-cancer specialist, refused to take it.

The article is here.