There is nothing scarier than facing a serious or untreatable condition. That’s why we count on our doctors to give us as much honest and helpful information about our diagnoses as possible. Because of this bond, we often feel that going to another doctor for a second (or third) opinion would be a betrayal. In reality, though, a second opinion can be the best medical choice you make for yourself or your family. In fact, in about 30 percent of the cases where a second opinion has been sought, getting another doctor’s opinion has dramatically changed a suggested treatment plan. It can even change your diagnosis, leading to much less risky procedures.
Despite this fact, Americans consult other doctors for a second diagnosis in less than half the cases where it could be helpful. Even fewer get a third opinion when doctors disagree about the treatment plan that should follow. While it may seem inconvenient to have to get a second opinion (and even more so to get a third doctor to weigh in), you do yourself a huge favor by getting another viewpoint in cases where a second diagnosis could be helpful.
When Do I Need to Get a Second Diagnosis?
Not all diagnoses need a second opinion. If there is a conclusive test for your disease and a very standard treatment for the condition, you may be wasting time getting another doctor’s diagnostic opinion. On the other hand, if a diagnosis is at all suspicious, a treatment plan seems serious, or conclusions are based on tests without clear or conclusive results, a second opinion may be necessary. The following are cases where it may be useful to consult another doctor for a second diagnosis.
- The suggested treatment is very risky or toxic. There may be other less invasive or les risky options. You deserve to hear these from another doctor.
- The diagnosis is not clear. If there is not a conclusive test for your disease and condition, but rather a decision is made based on a best-guess assessment of several factors, another doctor my have different insights. You have a right to know what else may be going on.
- You have been diagnosed with a very rare medical condition. Since it is incredibly rare, your doctor most likely is not as familiar with the condition as others could be. Try to see an expert specialist in the very narrow field of the disease the doctor thinks you have.
- You are not comfortable with the doctor for any reason. If the doctor does not make you feel comfortable, trust your instincts. Even if that doctor is supposed to be a leading expert or “everyone loves him,” you have to feel comfortable with your physician. It’s your health, no one else’s.
- Your doctor can’t answer questions about the rationale behind a proposed procedure or does not explain your diagnosis clearly. You need to be able to make an informed decision. Another doctor may be able to explain more clearly (or even may understand your condition better).
- The suggested treatment is experimental. While experimental treatments can have amazing results, they also carry some huge risks. You need to be presented some more traditional treatments by another doctor or at least hear them confirm the viability of the experimental trial.
- You are opposed to the treatment plan. While a suggested treatment that sounds awful to you may be the best option, it is best to consult with another doctor. They may have a plan that fits your treatment goals better. For example if you want to avoid surgery and your doctor think it is the only viable option, you may benefit from a second diagnosis.
- It is required by your insurance or your doctor. Sometimes this is the case. It is for your benefit. Take advantage of this.
- A previous similar treatment has not worked. You may need a new plan from a new doctor.
- You have been told that there is no hope. If a doctor says they cannot treat you, know that your doctor is not the only doctor out there. Find out what another specialist thinks.
- You want peace of mind and confidence before moving forward. A second diagnosis that confirms what your doctor suggested often makes entering into treatment much less stressful. If you are even a little hesitant about a treatment plan, a second or third diagnosis can’t hurt.
When you get a second opinion, your options are wider and you are less likely to be the victim of diagnostic error. You have more control over your treatment options, and you don’t have to fear a mistake as much as you would with the opinion of only one doctor.
Asking for a second diagnosis is not a betrayal of the trust you have with your doctor; it is your right as a patient. Delayed diagnoses and misdiagnosis of cancer are not as uncommon as you think. Your doctor should support your decision to get another opinion. You may even find out a mistake has been made in time to fix it. Diagnostic errors are costly, frighteningly common, and can lead to serious damage to your health. You need to do what you can to avoid them.
If you find out that you have been misdiagnosed too late to avoid harm, you may deserve compensation for your physician’s negligence. An experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer can help you build a solid case. If you have been the victim of diagnostic error or misdiagnosis, call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation on your particular case. Don’t suffer alone. Let us help you fight.