Certain professionals require a high level of physical and mental competency, such as surgeons and pilots. Due to natural aging, these skills may decline, placing the public at risk as these professionals literally hold peoples’ lives in their hands.
U.S. pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65 years. Physicians do not have such a limit, but a recent New York Times article asked the question, “When is the surgeon too old to operate?”
Many physicians are older. According to the American College of Surgeons, a third of practicing surgeons are older than age 55. One study found higher operative mortality rates for surgeons over age 60, particularly for those with low surgical volumes performing complex procedures. Another study has found the opposite.
The tradeoff is perhaps better vision and dexterity in younger surgeons versus wisdom and experience in older surgeons. The science is not settled, and there is plenty of individual variation. Some surgeons successfully operate into their 80s and others are lousy surgeons their entire careers.
Should surgeons have a mandatory, yet arbitrary, retirement age? After all, they make life and death decisions and lapses can be deadly.
What other groups that make similar decisions? The U.S. Congress for example.
Congress authorizes and funds foreign wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, with a death toll of 7,000 U.S. military and over half a million fatalities overall when including opposition fighters and civilians.
The 115th Congress is “among the oldest in history.” The average American is 20 years younger than their representative. Democrat leaders are older than their Republican counterparts. Democrat leadership averages 72 years old versus 48 for Republicans. Democrat chairs and ranking members are 68 years old versus 49 for GOP. If they were pilots, they would long be retired.
Who is running for president in 2020 and how old are they? Bernie Sanders is 77, Joe Biden 76 and Elizabeth Warren 69. As pilots they would be retired. Nancy Pelosi, third in line to the presidency is 78. Are they too old for the rigors of their current or desired jobs?
The congressional pharmacy reports filling prescriptions for some “pretty serious health problems” for members of Congress. Any concerns about the ages of those charged with leading the country?
If pilots have a mandatory retirement age and if a surgeon may be required to undergo competency testing past a certain age, why not politicians too?
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