When most of us think of surgeons, we probably think of seasoned doctors with years of experience underneath their white coats. While this may be the norm—the average age of thoracic surgeons in the United States, per the American College of Surgeons, is 52, for example—there are circumstances where exceedingly young people have performed surgery.
Though young people likely sometimes performed surgery before the age of modern medicine, in recent times, only a few have managed to get their hands on a scalpel.
C-Section Performed by a 15-Year-Old
One of these cases made headlines in 2007, getting a doctor and his family in serious trouble in the process. According to NBC News, a 15-year-old boy named Dhileepan Raj performed a Caesarean section in Southern India under the watch of his parents (who were both doctors). He did this in attempt to gain a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest person ever to perform surgery.
Though the surgery went fine, the boy’s father, Dr. K. Murugesan (who owns a maternity hospital in Manaparai), landed the family in trouble after showing a video of the surgery to a chapter of the Indian Medical Association.
Those who viewed the video deemed it an “ethical and legal violation.” Murugesan rebutted by stating that this was not the first surgery performed by Dhileepan and that he had been training his son for the past three years. He also added that the Manaparai medical association was simply “jealous” of his son’s achievements.
The Indian police didn’t agree with Murugesan’s assessment and charged both him and his wife with cheating, forgery of records, endangering human life, abetting a crime, and concealing evidence. They attempted to arrest Dhileepan as well, though he eluded authorities.
The Guinness Book of World Records, for their part, also sent an email condemning the actions of Dr. Murugesan, his wife, and his son; they stated that they don’t advocate these kinds of attempts because they encourage “bad medicine.”
Why Surgeons aren’t Generally Young
Despite what Doogie Howser would have you believe, it takes quite a while to become a doctor, and even longer to become a surgeon. Not only is intense schooling required (including a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree, and completion of four years of medical school), but a residency program must be completed as well. These programs generally take several years to complete. Typically, the harder the specialty, the longer the residency: a person hoping to become a heart surgeon will likely have a longer residency than a surgeon who specializes in dermatology.
On average, according to the American College of Surgeons, graduates of core surgical specialties are 33 years old at graduation. Those who graduate from international programs are older, on average 36.5 at graduation, as are those who graduate from advanced surgical programs, who enter the workforce between age 35 and 38.
Of course, this can be seen as a good thing: surgeons often hold their patients’ lives in their hands. Thus, it’s best that they are experienced, highly trained, and mature enough to handle the emotions that come with so much responsibility.
Bishop Price is a freelance writer based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bishop focuses on health, medical science, medical education, the medical profession, wellness, medical technology and other related issues; those considering the medical field as a career path may want to take a look at Practical Nursing Online.
Image credit goes to Defence Images.