Should aging doctors be tested for competency?

In a poignant scene from a 2003 episode of the medical show Scrubs, the usually lighthearted comedy takes a turn for the somber. Dr. Townshend — played by the then 78-year-old guest star Dick Van Dyke — has come under scrutiny for recommending a physician to perform an IJ cut down procedure instead of a much-safer modified Seldinger with disastrous results. His explanation? “Guys like us, we’re set in our ways.”

Chief of Medicine Dr. Bob Kelso levels with him: “This is not an age thing, Doug. Hell, these days if you've been out of med school five years, half of what you learned is obsolete. Why do you think I spend every other weekend at a seminar in some two-star hotel ballroom that still stinks of last night's prom vomit? I do it because I have to keep up.”

When Townshend balks that he does not “have the energy for all that stuff,” Kelso tells him, “well… then we got a problem.”

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