The aging physician with cognitive impairment: approaches to oversight, prevention, and remediation

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009 Jun;17(6):445-54. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e31819e2d7e.


There are many important unanswered issues regarding the occurrence of cognitive impairment in physicians, such as detection of deficits, remediation efforts, policy implications for safe medical practice, and the need to safeguard quality patient care. The authors review existing literature on these complex issues and derive heuristic formulations regarding how to help manage the professional needs of the aging physician with dementia. To ensure safe standards of medical care while also protecting the needs of physicians and their families, state regulatory or licensing agencies in collaboration with state medical associations and academic medical centers should generate evaluation guidelines to assure continued high levels of functioning. The authors also raise the question of whether age should be considered as a risk factor that merits special screening for adequate functioning. Either age-related screening for cognitive impairment should be initiated or rigorous evaluation after lapses in standard of care should be the norm regardless of age. Ultimately, competence rather than mandatory retirement due to age per se should be the deciding factor regarding whether physicians should be able to continue their practice. Finally, the authors issue a call for an expert consensus panel to convene to make recommendations concerning aging physicians with cognitive impairment who are at risk for medical errors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician Impairment / psychology
  • Physicians / psychology*