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New Test Determines If Surgeon Is Too Old To Operate

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- At the age many people retire, there are thousands of surgeons still operating on patients.

Alex DeMetrick reports that's prompted a Sinai doctor to come up with an age ability test.

It takes years of training to make a surgeon, but how many years to unmake one? A doctor's actual age is not the test for competency.

"We need to find a way to test that functional age, particularly in surgeons on whom we depend for our life," Dr. Mark Katlic, Sinai thoracic surgeon.

Katlic is a thoracic surgeon at Baltimore's Sinai Hospital. He's come up with a number of hand-eye coordination tests to gauge a surgeon's physical ability and detailed ones...

"To test memory, attention span, even emotional status," Katlic said.

Unlike other professions, surgeons don't have a mandatory retirement age. For airline pilots, it's 65, and 56 for the controllers in the tower. FBI agents retire at 57. Even lighthouse keepers must call it quits at 65.

It's estimated there are 20,000 surgeons 70 and above who are still operating--not all are willing to take the test.

"And we've heard that a number of surgeons have voluntarily retired when threatened with our test, as it were," Katlic said. "But we're hoping to support the surgeons as much as possible, too."

Because the test could diagnose treatable health issues unrelated to age and keep a surgeon operating.

The test does not set a specific age a surgeon might take it, although 70 is the suggested age.

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