Our Blogs

Should Aging Doctors Be Given Competency Tests?

Written by Berkowitz

medical malpractice lawyer - berkowitz law firmA great deal of research has been done on medical malpractice, which can come in a variety of  forms. While different factors contribute to malpractice lawsuits in varying degrees, there is a growing concerned focused on the competency of aging physicians. As the Baby Boomer generation reaches its golden years, the number of aging doctors is naturally increasing. Five years ago, 18% of doctors were above the age of 65; today, that number has increased to 21%. While many senior physicians claim they feel confident in continuing to offer safe, effective patient care, the American Medical Association (AMA) is exploring the option of competency testing after a certain age.

Lack of Guidelines

The AMA’s main concern is that there is no mandate or guideline to determine when doctor aging issues may result in patient safety issues. Commercial airline pilots are required to participate in health screenings as early as age 40, and retirement is mandatory at age 65. However, there is no such legislation required for physicians, surgeons, and anesthesiologists who require full cognitive and physical functioning to provide safe patient care.

In recent years, the AMA has begun the process of implementing such a mandate for the medical community. Under the organization’s guidance, competency tracking is focused on the normal physical shifts that accompany aging, including vision and hearing changes, memory issues, and decreased motor skills. While none of these alone are necessarily cause for retirement, any combination may require a re-evaluation of qualifications.


  • A study conducted in 2005 revealed that 6.6% of doctors who had been out of medical school for at least 40 years had received some form of disciplinary action. This is compared to the 1.3% of doctors out of medical school for 10 years or less.
  • The following year, another study revealed that the patient fatality rates during complicated surgeries were higher for surgeons 60 or older. However, age made no difference regarding routine surgeries.
  • Though older physicians are encouraged to renew certain medical certifications, many are exempt due to grandfather clauses. Less than 1% of the approximately 69,000 older members of the American Board of Internal Medicine choose to voluntarily renew certifications.
  • One of the biggest issues regarding aging medical professionals is the ambiguous and often hidden symptoms of early stage dementia. It is estimated that up to 8,000 doctors could potentially be practicing medicine with some level of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Berkowitz and Hanna LLC – Serving Fairfield and New Haven Counties

If you have suffered an injury due to misdiagnosis, medication error, or any other kind of malpractice, seeking legal counsel is the first step toward making you and your family whole. At Berkowitz and Hanna LLC, our team will walk you through the legal process based on your specific situation, and we will carefully evaluate the circumstances to create the most productive strategy for your unique case. Our compassionate, dedicated team of malpractice attorneys has an impressive track record of obtaining compensation for our clients. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today for a free consultation.