Getting a second opinion may be the most important thing you ever do! Medical results are rarely yes or no; they come in a spectrum and must usually be interpreted. One result of this is that a surprising number of test results are incorrect. A patient should always ask for a second opinion from a medical specialist, at a different institution, whenever they feel that their doctors might be making a mistake.
Doctors may have made a correct diagnosis on the basis of the information they have, but a 2014 study estimated that diagnostic errors happen about 12 million times per year in the U.S., which means that the information doctors rely on is often wrong.
Similarly, a survey of 726 pediatricians revealed that more than half (54%) reported making a diagnostic error at least once or twice per month. About one-half of diagnostic errors have the potential to lead to severe harm. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4145460/pdf/bmjqs-2013-002627.pdf..
The Value of a Second Opinion
Whenever you might need surgery or any kind of major procedure or treatment, it is usually a good idea to get a second opinion from another doctor. At the same time, it is also a good idea to get a second opinion if you if you have the faintest belief that your doctor might be committing a mistake with your diagnosis, and while that might surprise you, it is actually pretty common.
When Is It Worth Getting a Second Opinion?
Just the feeling of uncertainty about having a surgery or the belief that your illness might go untreated is enough to justify whatever expense necessary in order to get a diagnosis from other qualified doctors.
You Should Always Consider the Possibility of a Second Opinion When:
- Your current diagnosis isn’t clear
- You have been told that you have a rare life-threatening condition
- You have several medical problems
- The recommended treatment for you is a risky controversial or experimental ordeal
- You’re not responding as expected to the current treatment
- You have lost confidence in your doctor or your healthcare provider
Most health insurance plans usually can cover the cost of a second opinion, but it’s still a good idea to contact your health care provider and plan beforehand to not be surprised for any unplanned expenses.
Where Should You Go?
After making the choice of having a second opinion, a rule of thumb is to ask another expert with at least the same level of skill and knowledge as your current doctor. They should also have a bit of experience in dealing with your current condition.
The internet is your friend, however, you might also find good sources of information at the same medical center where you were being treated or even at the recommendation of your healthcare provider, your current doctor, or friends and family.
For this reason, patients should never be afraid to ask for a second opinion. And if necessary, you shouldn’t be afraid of getting in contact with an attorney you can trust!
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