When a second medical opinion makes sense

Taking a proactive approach to one’s personal health care is important. Seeking a second medical opinion can be one way of doing this.

Most residents in and around Berks County, Pennsylvania have likely heard stories about a serious medical error being made. Whether they have heard such things on the news or personally know someone who has been the victim of a medical mistake, Pennsylvanians have good reason to be concerned. According to Vox, these errors are ranked one of the primary causes of death in the nation.

What are some types of medical errors?

Many different types of medical errors can occur. These involve mistakes related to how treatment orders are carried out. Even when properly diagnosed, patients can suffer injuries if their conditions are not appropriately handled. Other medical mistakes relate to incorrect decisions or actions made or taken by health care professionals. Examples of these problems include wrong or missed diagnoses.

Is a second opinion always necessary?

While it is not likely necessary to get a second opinion after every trip to the doctor, there may be certain situations that more logically warrant an additional view. WebMD.com explains that cases including the following may be good candidates for second opinions:

  • A diagnosis that is not very clear or well understood
  • Experimental or not-yet-approved treatments
  • Potentially serious risks or complications associated with a treatment
  • A diagnosis of a life-threatening illness
  • Multiple treatment options

Seeking a second medical opinion is something that the American Heart Association explains every person should be willing to do as it is always the patient's right to do so.

How should patients get second opinions?

As explained by the Patient Advocate Foundation, the primary benefit of seeking a second opinion is a fresh perspective. Because providers in the same group or system commonly share an approach to care, it is advisable to go outside the original doctor's group for a second opinion.

Even when looking beyond the initial medical system, patients can request referrals from the first doctor. Reputable providers will always be welcoming of such a request. There can also be many times when a second opinion is required by an insurance company.

Who makes the final decision?

Whether one, two or more opinions have been obtained, the Huffington Post emphasizes that it is always the patient's right to choose an ultimate course of action. Such decisions can be made based upon many criteria including personal preferences, religious beliefs, and medical information.

When additional input is desired, patients should also discuss their case with an attorney. If the potential for a true medical error exists, pursuing compensation sooner rather than later is always better, especially with legal statutes of limitations in place.