Should You Get a Second Opinion?

Doctor talking to a patient about medical records on a clipboard

When a Second Opinion is Warranted and How It Can Be Used in a Medical Malpractice Case

Receiving news that you have a serious of  life-threatening medical condition can be devastating, and you may be curious whether it’s worth getting a second medical opinion from a different doctor.

A second opinion is also a wise step you can take to increase the likelihood of a correct diagnosis and prevent medical malpractice.

A Second Opinion Often Refines the Original Diagnosis

Medical providers are required to provide care that is at least as good as the care provided by other practitioners who are of the same level of education and skill ordinarily possessed by others in the same or a similar location. If a medical provider fails to provide this level of care, they could be liable for medical negligence.

If you believe that your medical provider has been negligent - either through an incorrect diagnosis or recommending an improper course of treatment -  a second opinion might be a wise step.

A study by the Mayo Clinic found that as many as 88% of people who seek a second opinion will come away with a new or refined diagnosis and treatment plan, and that 21% of people will come away with a “distinctly different” diagnosis. In fact, only 12% of people who sought a second opinion came away with the exact same diagnosis.

The study followed 286 patients and suggests that there are a high number of diagnostic errors in the medical field, and that there is a good chance that the initial diagnosis will at least be adjusted by getting a second opinion.

A Second Opinion Is Wise If It Involves Life-Altering Treatment or a Life-Threatening Disease

With medical errors ranking among the top 5 leading causes of death in the United States, the need for a second opinion is clear. Especially if you are faced with life-altering treatment or a life-threatening disease, it is important to get a second opinion. Doctors are human and they make mistakes. Getting a second opinion from another doctor will make you a better educated healthcare consumer and give you confidence that you are moving forward in a way that is best for your health and well-being.

Most medical professionals agree that it makes sense to get a second opinion, especially if:

  • your doctor has recommended treatment that is risky
  • your diagnosis is not completely clear
  • the proposed treatment is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • the treatment would require participation in a new drug trial
  • the proposed treatment is an experimental approach or procedure

In fact, if you Google “second opinion medical” you will see results from hospitals that offer a second opinion on-line through a remote service.

A second opinion can also help you become a more educated healthcare consumer, and confirm both that the diagnosis is correct and that the proposed treatment is appropriate.  

Getting A Second Opinion Can Open a Dialogue Between Doctors

While no one wants to feel like a “difficult” patient, it’s important to advocate for yourself, your health, and your care and treatment.

While it can be a difficult conversation to have, it’s a good idea to tell your treating physician that you are seeking a second opinion so that your physician can share all relevant medical records with the other doctor. It also can open a dialogue between your treating physician and the doctor who is offering the second opinion. This way the two doctors can collaborate and identify the areas where they agree and where they disagree. This will result in you having the most information available so you can make an informed decision about your care and treatment.

When seeking a second opinion it is wise to seek a second opinion from someone who is not affiliated with the hospital that made the initial diagnosis. One hospital may have a very different philosophical approach than another hospital and this can result in different ways of approaching the same medical condition.

Different doctors and different hospitals can take very different approaches to the same medical diagnosis. Some practitioners will take an aggressive approach, while others are more conservative. This can result in different findings, and different recommendations for treatment.

When the diagnosis involves lab work, it can be helpful to get a second opinion from both a doctor and a lab.

In some cases a second opinion will even be covered by your health insurance plan.

A Second Can Help Prove a Case of Medical Malpractice

A second opinion can also be used in the event that you decide to pursue a claim for medical negligence.

Almost all medical malpractice cases require expert testimony to establish that the doctor fell below the standard of care, that the doctor’s negligence was the cause of your injuries, and to establish the measure of damages.

A second opinion can also be used to establish that the standard of care was violated.

Without an affidavit of merit and testimony from a medical expert a judge can dismiss your case for medical malpractice. Courts have decided that the facts in a medical malpractice case are too complex for a juror to understand without the assistance of an expert. In some cases, the doctor who provided the second opinion might be willing to provide testimony about the initial diagnosis and treatment and why the second doctor believes that this course of treatment was incorrect.

If you were injured as a result of the first doctor’s treatment, the doctor who provides the second opinion might be willing to testify as to why the first doctor breached the standard of care, and how the doctor’s negligence caused your injuries.

Robenalt Law Fights for People Injured by Medical Malpractice

If you believe you or someone you care about was the victim of medical malpractice, contact the Ohio medical malpractice lawyers at Robenalt Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

Call us at 216-223-7375, complete our online form, or email trobenalt@robenaltlaw.com.

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career at a large firm in Cleveland where he represented doctors and hospitals accused of medical malpractice. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.

Categories: Medical Malpractice

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