If you have an older doctor . . .

There is no mandatory testing of doctors as we age, although many of us think there should be some sort of evaluation as we get to some ripe old age, say 70, or perhaps even younger.

I think that should also hold true, by the way, for anyone in a position of authority, such as – for sure – university profs (who would, needless to add, marshal resources to fight such a move tooth and nail), and speaking of tooth, it should also hold for dentists, lawyers, and even car mechanics.

And most definitely for politicians, as current events amply illustrate.


Because nearly every aging person understands – usually from personal experience – that their cognitive skills are not as sharp as they used to be, and while that often makes little difference in their daily routine (unless you keep leaving the stove on, that is, or forgetting your wife’s name in public), it can make a large difference in their public responsibilities.

So no surprise to me at all that a just-published study that seems to have flown under the radar, alas, found that mandatory cognitive testing at a top American hospital – it’s one of the Yale schools – found that nearly 13 % of 141 doctors who applied for their renewal of hospital privileges had “cognitive deficits which gave . . . great concern about their ability to practice medicine independently.”

Even more frightening, perhaps, the authors write: “None of these 18 clinicians had been previously brought to the attention of hospital authorities because of concern about their practice abilities”.

In other words, either no one at the hospital – a colleague, a co-worker, an employee of the doctor, a patient – knew that a particular doctor was in decline, or even more worrying, someone knew but didn’t tell anyone.

In fact, only 57 % of the doctors tested were cleared entirely, so the rest were subject to regular review which means that it’s likely that a few at least will also show cognitive decline in the near future.