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Can a Second Opinion Prevent Medical Malpractice?

Many of us have confidence in our doctors and health care providers that they are being open and honest with us. We trust their extensive education, training, and experience to understand our health conditions, treatment options, and when to refer the patient to a specialist. Unfortunately, some doctors are just plain wrong. 

Incorrect information could come from going down the wrong path of a differential diagnosis, not getting all the information available, or even ignoring a patient’s complaints. If we fail to act after getting the wrong diagnosis, it could lead to a medical injury, disability, disfigurement, or even death. A second opinion can help reduce the risk of a medical injury. 

If you are not sure of your doctor’s diagnosis or treatment, if your condition is getting worse instead of better, or you have been given a diagnosis for a serious condition like terminal cancer, you may want to get a second opinion. To get more information about malpractice after the wrong medical diagnosis, get a case evaluation from an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

What Is a Second Opinion in Medical Care?

A second opinion in medical care means going to see another doctor after you’ve already been given a diagnosis or treatment plan by another doctor. Getting a second opinion is common in other areas of our lives, like getting an estimate for a car repair, talking to a contractor about a construction project, or even finding a babysitter to watch your kids. In medical care, a second opinion may be less common. 

By getting a second opinion, another doctor will be able to review your information and give you a diagnosis. This may be the same information your prior doctor had but it could come to a different result. The doctor may evaluate your conditions based on: 

  • Physical exam
  • Medical history
  • Family medical history
  • Symptoms and complaints
  • Medications 
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Lab results 
  • Imaging studies

After an evaluation and any follow-up tests or information, your doctor can give you a second opinion. The second opinion can give you more information on your condition, treatment options, and prognosis. 

Why People Don’t Get a Second Opinion

Some people don’t get a second opinion because they are worried that their doctor will be offended. That should be your last concern when handling your medical care. In reality, most doctors have no problem when a patient gets a second opinion. 

Professional and ethical medical professionals understand that the experience and training of multiple doctors can provide additional information and make sure the patient is properly diagnosed and treated. This can be especially true with rare conditions that general doctors may not be familiar with. 

If you want to get a second opinion, you can even ask your doctor for advice. The doctor may know someone who is a specialist in a certain area of medicine that may better be able to help the patient, even if the specialist does confirm the first doctor’s diagnosis. 

Benefits of Getting a Second Opinion

The benefits of getting a second opinion include getting additional information to manage your health care. When one doctor has an opinion about your diagnosis, it provides a certain level of confidence but that doctor could have also made a mistake. When five doctors have the same opinion about your diagnosis, it could increase confidence and reduce the chances of one doctor making a mistake. 

There are rare conditions that many doctors have never seen before or have only read about in medical journals. There are other conditions that some doctors have never heard of and do not know anything about. Specialists and subspecialists in certain areas of medicine may have more information and experience with medical treatments and conditions involving that specialty.  

Second Opinion From a Medical Specialist

According to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), there are hundreds of recognized specialties and subspecialties in medicine. To get board certified in a medical specialty, doctors have to undergo additional training, medicine residency education, clinical competence, and get approved by the specialty board of medicine. Primary medical specialties include: 

Many specialties also have subspecialty certificates in a more specific area of medicine. For example, under the American Board of Anesthesiology, subspecialties include:

  • Adult Cardiac Anesthesiology
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • Neurocritical Care
  • Pain Medicine
  • Pediatric Anesthesiology
  • Sleep Medicine

Is a Second Opinion Expensive?

One of the most common reasons people fail to get a second opinion is because it is too expensive. Most people in the U.S. are limited in their medical care options by their insurance company. Insurance companies can control which providers are eligible for covered care and which are not. Many insurance plans also require pre-authorization before you can see a specialist. 

First, you have to find out how your insurance company handles second opinions after you have already had a doctor visit. The insurance company may drag their feet and delay approval, leaving you with even fewer options. When the insurance company does cover a second opinion, there may be limited options in who the patient can see, the appointment is far off, or the doctor is located far away. 

It can be expensive to pay out-of-pocket for a second opinion from a doctor of your choice. However, for some patients, that may be their only option. If you do have to pay out-of-pocket, you may be able to see if the doctor will offer any sort of discount or payment plan options to help with the expenses. 

Can I Get a Virtual Second Opinion?

In some cases, a virtual second opinion can be less expensive. Like an in-person second opinion, a virtual visit can help you understand your treatment options, risks of a procedure, benefits of undergoing a specific type of care, and alternatives available. A virtual medical review may also be available more quickly than waiting for an appointment with your medical insurance. 

There are limits to virtual telemedicine visits done over the phone or with a video call. A doctor may not be able to do a physical exam over video chat and even the video quality of your phone or computer may not be good enough to provide a full image. Make sure you understand who is conducting the visit, if you want to see a doctor, specialist, or have general questions.

How Do You Ask for a Second Opinion?

You can start with your original doctor to talk about a second opinion. You can ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist. You can also tell your doctor that you want a second opinion and ask for a recommendation. If you do not feel comfortable talking to your doctor about getting a second opinion, you may be able to ask your insurance company to recommend a specialist. 

If you are not limited by your medical insurance company, you can look anywhere for a specialist. If there is a medical specialty, you can search a local medical association in that specialty for doctors in your area. You can also ask friends or family for suggestions or recommendations. 

When you finally get to see the second-opinion doctor, make sure you ask all the questions you need answers to. After discussing your condition, symptoms, and medical history, get the answers to understand the diagnosis and treatment options. Questions you can ask your doctor may include: 

  • What is the medical diagnosis?
  • Is this the same diagnosis as my other doctor?
  • Are there other possible diagnoses?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the risks and benefits of the treatment?
  • Are there alternatives to common treatments?
  • What happens if I do not get treated?
  • What can I do to improve my condition?

Was the First or Second Opinion the Right One?

Just because you get a second opinion does not mean that the second opinion is correct. It is possible that neither the first opinion nor the second opinion are correct. Some complex conditions can go misdiagnosed multiple times before the right doctor identifies the correct diagnosis. If you still don’t feel confident about the medical opinions, you can try and get a third or fourth opinion. Your health is what is most important. 

Medical Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a popular term to refer to making someone question their own thoughts or beliefs. Gaslighting can cause confusion and self-doubt and make them change their mind about what might actually be true or in their best interests. Medical gaslighting can involve a doctor or someone else dismissing a patient’s symptoms or complaints. It can be a problem when the patient knows their body better than anyone but a doctor convinces them that they are wrong or have some other condition. 

Gaslighting can happen to anyone getting medical care. However, women and people of color may be more likely to be victims of medical gaslighting. The results of medical gaslighting can be the same as for a misdiagnosis or undiagnosed condition. The patient may go on not getting the proper treatment. They may also receive the wrong type of treatment that causes other complications. Without a proper diagnosis or treatment, the patient can suffer serious injuries. In some cases, a misdiagnosis can be fatal.

According to an article in the journal Canadian Family Physician, “gaslighting has been used by physicians to dismiss women’s health problems, enforcing the misogynist stereotype that women are irrational and “hysterical,” a prejudice that dates back centuries.”  

Not all gaslighting is intentional. A doctor may really believe that you have a different condition. A confirmation bias can also cause a doctor to go down the wrong path because they get an idea about one condition before doing an unbiased examination. Once they have the idea of a certain diagnosis in their head, they may focus on the signs and symptoms that confirm their belief, even if other signs and symptoms point to something else. 

In more tragic cases, a doctor could give the wrong diagnosis or provide the wrong treatments for financial profit. Doctors are often rewarded for bringing in lots of money to hospitals and clinics. This may cause some doctors to prescribe unnecessary treatments, just for more money. Unnecessary treatment is not only an unnecessary cost but it can cause injuries and side effects that are completely avoidable. 

If you believe your doctor is gaslighting you, you may want to go see another doctor and get a second opinion. You may even want to file a complaint about the offending doctor, to help others avoid similar problems. 

How Do You Know if a Misdiagnosis Is Malpractice?

If your doctor gives you the wrong prognosis and you go find another doctor that gives you the right second opinion, you may have avoided a serious health complication. However, when a patient doesn’t get a second opinion or the second opinion is wrong, it can cause serious injury. In some cases, your doctor may have continued to misdiagnose you, during which time your condition worsened. Even if you eventually get the right diagnosis, the delayed diagnosis could be the basis for a medical malpractice claim. 

Medical malpractice involves a doctor deviating from the standards of medical care, which causes an injury, leaving the patient suffering damage. Medical malpractice is more than just a different legal opinion. If a reasonable doctor would not have done what your doctor did, that may have been a breach of the doctor’s duty of care. If that breach caused an injury, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. 

A medical malpractice lawsuit allows the injury victim and their family to recover financial compensation for their losses. The medical malpractice damages can be significant and include any losses associated with the medical error, including: 

  • Medical bills
  • Loss of income
  • Pain and suffering

It can be difficult for a patient to know whether their injuries were caused by the doctor giving the wrong diagnosis and how much damage was caused by the first doctor’s mistake. An experienced medical malpractice legal team can provide a case review, review your medical records, and identify what damage may have been caused by a medical error.   

At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to investigate medical accidents caused by medical errors or negligence. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our families across the country recover millions of dollars in compensation after a medical injury. Contact us online or call our law office today at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.

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