When does a second opinion make sense?

Long Beach residents who have received a serious diagnosis or suspect an incorrect diagnosis may benefit from a second opinion.

Southern California residents have reason to be concerned about the quality of their medical care and the accuracy of diagnoses. According to Vox, medical errors are known to be among the primary causes of death throughout the country. These errors can commonly be classified in one of two categories.

One category of medical errors covers any situation in which a healthcare provider fails to deliver appropriate care, orders or treatment to or for a patient. This might be in the form of equipment left in a patient's body after a surgery or a patient given the wrong medication. The second category of medical errors includes those situations in which the actions taken were wrong from the beginning, even though they followed the orders given. Missed diagnoses or incorrect diagnoses are the two most well-known forms of these types of medical malpractice cases.

Can such mistakes be prevented?

Especially in the case of a missed or wrong diagnosis, getting a second opinion from another provider may help to prevent serious injuries from a medical mistake. When deciding whether or not to do this, WebMD indicates that the following situations generally warrant this:

  • An unclear or not definitive diagnosis
  • A high risk level is associated with the treatment
  • There are more than one available treatment options
  • Some of the treatment options are experimental in some way
  • A potentially serious or fatal disease or condition is the diagnosis

In addition, the American Heart Association suggests that patients should feel comfortable seeking second opinions when they have any type of question about an initial diagnosis.

What is the process for receiving a second opinion?

Patients can always discuss their desire for a second opinion with their initial physician. Ethical doctors will welcome such proactivity on the part of their patients and some medical insurance companies even require this.

It is recommended that the second physician be employed by a different facility than the first physician. This can yield a more accurate comparison as sometimes there are practice philosophies shared by all providers in one group. A second opinion is intended to look at a patient's case from a new viewpoint, not just from a different person.

The Patient Advocate Foundation notes that each provider will have a different way of approaching a case. Some are by nature more aggressive in recommending treatments right away while others take a more cautious approach and are willing to wait before starting treatments, especially if they are invasive.

The patient must decide

The Huffington Post reminds California patients to always remember that they have the final say in these situations. The choice can even be made by simply which set of information or recommendations is more in line with a person's beliefs or wishes. Even if a second opinion is received, people who are concerned about medical mistakes should also be willing to discuss their case with an attorney.