A Medical Frontier: 100-Year-Olds In Surgery

Doctors disagree on whether to operate on the 'late elderly'
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2008 7:45 AM CDT
Surgery for the 'very elderly' is on the increase.   (Shutter Stock)
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(Newser) – Life expectancy in the United States keeps rising: more than 90,000 Americans have celebrated a 100th birthday, and experts foresee more than 1 million centenarians by 2050. As lifespans have grown, so too have medical efforts to treat the very old, from hip replacements to chemotherapy. But as the New York Times reports, the medical community is divided over both the efficacy and the ethics of surgery for the "late elderly."

One doctor who has studied the repercussions of surgery on much older patients said that people who have reached 100 "have demonstrated a survival prowess." Not everyone agrees: for many medical professionals, such aggressive treatment can be at best wasteful and at worst barbaric, giving false hope to those at the end of their lives. "America always tends to overtreat the sickest people," said one health care analyst.