Smiley & Smiley, LLP

When it may be time to put down the scalpel

There are many obvious advantages to having older employees in practically any work environment. With age comes experience and experience often leads to efficient and effective workplace operations. However, there are times when age leads to physical and/or mental challenges that make working in certain capacities dangerous.

Everyone ages differently. Therefore, there is no one “right” answer to the question of when individuals should stop working. Some individuals may experience an early onset of physical or mental symptoms which render working dangerous as early as their 40s or 50s. Other individuals may be able to work safely well into their 90s. It is therefore important to evaluate each worker’s abilities on a case to case basis.

Some professionals, like pilots, loggers or surgeons, may need to pay special attention to the ways in which their minds and bodies are changing as they age. Without this consistent attention, they could ultimately cause harm to themselves or others if they remain on the job too long.

Surgeons in particular need to consistently evaluate their eyesight, memory, hand function, ability to stand for the time surgery requires and other mental and physical issues so that they do not unintentionally cause their patients harm. Similarly, if a patient has any concerns whatsoever about his or her aging surgeon’s ability to perform a certain procedure, it may be a good idea to either address these concerns or seek out another surgeon. An attorney may be able to help a patient hold a negligent aging surgeon accountable for any harm caused, but ideally such harm would be prevented proactively by a surgeon’s consistent monitoring of his or her aging process.

Source: NPR, “When Should Surgeons Stop Operating?” Nadia Whitehead, June 18, 2015

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