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Should Elderly Doctors Have to Take Competence Tests?

About 15 years ago I had some digestive issues which sent me to a gastroenterologist, who at the time I remember thinking was getting up there in age. Then I went to see him again for new issues a few years ago, and he was decidedly on in years. He didn't remember seeing me before, but due to the intervening years, I wasn't surprised. He sent me off for some tests and saw me again, and then more tests and saw me again. Finally when our conversation went like this, I decided it was time to switch to a younger model.

Me: Well what about my hiatal hernia?
Him: Who told you you had a hiatal hernia?
Me: You did.
Him: (Rereading the notes he had just written) Don't worry about it.

Well, the long and the short of it was that he needed replacement. I looked up his credentials on the hospital website and figured out with his dates of medical school graduation, he was the same age as my father, or older. My father is now 82. You do the math. He has since retired. At one visit, I mentioned something to the person checking me in, and she said they were all amazed he was still working, but was only part time.

As doctors age, there are no checks in place to ensure they are still competent. I think there should be something like retaking drivers tests for elderly drivers. As we worry about doctors retiring and not enough primary care physicians, we also need to think about making sure all doctors retain their competency. I am sure there are some requirements to meet their state's medical board standards and keeping skills sharp, but a long-term, slow progression of losing the sharpness of youth can be difficult to diagnose and report.

I am not a big fan of the young doctors who are still wet behind the ears. I think I prefer my doctors to have between 5 and 30 years of practice. Too young and I feel like their mothers. Too old and I feel like they are treating me as their child. I would rather be their peer.


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