Seeking a second medical opinion

Seeking a second opinion for a medical condition or concern is the right of every patient—and may be a way to prevent a serious medical error.

Residents in and around Washington, D.C. can be subject to medical errors at any time. Mistakes made by health care professionals are known to be responsible for a large number of fatalities in the U.S. every year. According to Vox, medical errors are listed as one of the most common causes of death in the country.

It is important to understand that a medical error can be introduced at different points in the health care process. An error can be made at a very early stage when a physician or other professional either fails to diagnose a condition or misdiagnoses a problem. Other errors can happen later on when any treatments that are ordered are not properly administered. Getting a second opinion could be instrumental in avoiding those mistakes involving the original diagnosis.

Is a second opinion always necessary?

Certainly a patient has the right to get additional opinions at any time and the American Heart Association notes that people should be comfortable in seeking this. However, there are certain situations which may warrant second opinions more than some others. WebMD.com explains that these include the following:

  • When an experimental treatment is ordered or considered.
  • When any treatment related to a condition carries with it a high risk for complications or even death.
  • When a diagnosis is made for a potentially life-threatening disease.
  • When there are more than one potential treatment options.

Seeking the input of another provider is also advised when a patient feels that a doctor's diagnosis or recommendation is not clear.

How to find providers for second opinions

It is important that a second medical opinion be unique and from a fresh perspective in order to be most effective. As explained by the Patient Advocate Foundation, providers in the same medical group frequently tend to share similar philosophies. For this reason, a second opinion provider should be outside of the original provider's group.

Ethical doctors will not be threatened by a request for second opinions and should, in fact, welcome such proactivity on the part of their patients. This makes asking the first doctor for a referral a good way to find a new provider.

The patient's choice

While it can be daunting to be faced with conflicting opinions, patients deserve the ability to select their course of action regarding their health. Talking with an attorney is also a recommendation at this time, especially if an error is suspected.