Published On: Fri, Aug 19th, 2011

WHY WORRY ABOUT DOCTORS AS THEY AGE

Based on an article from NYT  (January 24, 2011)
by  LAURIE TARKAN

Comment

(Healingtalks) There have been studies in Europe where it turned out that the average allopathic doctor was no healthier than the average person in our modern culture as a whole.

This is extremely telling. Why then go to an allopathic doctor if they have no edge, on average, and especially with unending use of so-called “just side-effecting” pharmaceutical drugs, unnecessary and disabling surgery and commonplace deadly radiation treatments. Allopathic medicine, as such, has no solution for what is the nature of  human consciousness. So it is not surprising that even Nobel Prize winning conventional scientists have routinely fallen prey to Alzheimer’s.   Dr. John Douglas French established America’s first facility for treating Alzheimer’s patients and yet himself died with Alzheimer’s disease!

These cases are tragedies both for the doctor and the doctor’s family. But there is a solution is in sight. What is needed is a revolutionary understanding of the fundamental directions of our healing arts. This must be away from the mechanical/dead-laden vision of nature (and derivatively our bodies) of the 17th century that underlies all of allopathic medicine. This also makes a marriage with powerful commercial forces, especially Big Pharma, to undermine medical wisdom. Throughout healingtalks I have expressed the need for a  shift to not just a deeper and more integral understanding of life and consciousness, of health and healing,  but also of a revolutionary overturning the neanderthal philosophy of Isaac Newton that brought us into the modern world but also bankrupted our wisdom to reverse epidemic chronic human ills and environmental devastation.

Nathan Batalion CTN
Certified Traditional Naturopaths

A Case in Point of An Ill Doctor

At the age of 78, a vascular surgeon in California operated on a woman with  a pulmonary embolism. The surgeon did not respond to urgent calls from the nurses and the woman died. Even after this was reported to the Medical Board of California, he continued to operate for four years until the board finally referred him for a competency assessment.  This surgeon had visual-spatial abnormalities, could not do fine motor movements, could not retain information. The surgeon was asked to surrender his medical license.

A Rising Population of Aging Doctors Who Do Not Retire

A fifth of the nation’s physicians are over 65, and that proportion is expected to rise. Many are under increasing financial pressures that make them reluctant to retire.  But physicians are not immune to dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and other ills of aging. There are few safeguards to protect patients.   A 2005 study found disciplinary action was 6.6% for doctors out of medical school 40 years, compared with 1.3% for those out only 10 years.

With Complicated Operations, Older Surgeons Produce Higher Mortality Rates

In 2006, a study found that in complicated operations, patients’ mortality rates were higher when the surgeon was 60 or older, though there was no difference between younger and older doctors in routine operations.

Screening Aging Doctors For Competency

Some experts are calling for regular cognitive screening once physicians reach 65 or 70, and a few hospitals have instituted such screening already.   Others doubt that a single type of exam can assess the performance of doctors from a variety of specialties. “More research is needed for us to define what combination of cognitive and motor issues are important,” said Dr. Stuart Green, a member of the ethics committee of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Subtle Unconscious and Unnoticed Changes in Medical Competency

Doctors with mild cognitive impairment. Changes in memory recall are often subtle at first.Only when a doctor’s behavior starts to become odd are  physicians, nurses and patients likely to take notice. Doctors often cover for physicians who are becoming less sharp, by having another surgeon in the operating room or by regularly reviewing their cases.

Confronting the Issue of Aging Doctors

Dr. John Fromson, associate director of postgraduate medical education at Massachusetts General Hospital, cited a case  where a 77-year-old chairman of internal medicine had cognitive difficulties. He was highly respected and had trained most of the physicians at the center, so they were hesitant to deal with the problem head on. Instead, they gave him a retirement party,  but he didn’t take the hint and kept working. They finally asked him to turn over his license, which he tearfully did. Now 5 – 10%  of hospitals have begun to address the issue of aging physicians more systematically.  At Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Tex., Dr. Karl Serrao, the credentials chairman, decided to move slowly and enlisted the staff’s help in drafting a policy.  The policy states that when doctors reach age 70,  they must undergo cognitive and physical exams to assess skills specific to their specialty.

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