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Does Getting a Second Opinion Help Prevent Medical Malpractice?

Because we all need medical treatment at one time or another, almost everyone has an opinion about the health care system. And while Oregonians recognize and appreciate the quality care provided by many doctors on a daily basis, it is also true that on some occasions medical care providers do not live up to the standards demanded by society. When medical professionals provide substandard care, such medical malpractice can lead to catastrophic harm to patients. Therefore, common sense tells us that we should do everything we can to improve our own medical treatment results. One precaution to consider is obtaining a second opinion.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

In a nutshell, medical malpractice occurs when a medical care provider breaches the applicable standard of care, which causes injury to the patient. There are many types of medical malpractice. A few examples include the following:

  • misdiagnosis (the doctor makes a diagnosis, but it is wrong)
  • failure to diagnose (there is a problem, but the medical care provider does not diagnose it)
  • prescription medicine errors
  • surgical errors
  • failure to order a needed test
  • misinterpretation of a test result
  • anesthesia errors
  • childbirth errors

A Closer Look at Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

Diagnosing medical conditions undoubtedly can be difficult. There are thousands of diseases and medical conditions, and doctors sometimes must consider a relatively small number of symptoms. This, of course, is one of the reasons medical training is so rigorous, and why we place so much trust in the abilities of our medical care providers. The Institute of Medicine (a part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine) has reported that there are probably at least 12 million diagnostic errors every year. They even conclude that most Americans during their lifetimes will receive at least one diagnosis which is incorrect or late. Medical experts agree that much more research is needed to address this serious problem.

Why a Second Opinion Might Be a Great Idea

In 2017 the Mayo Clinic released interesting results based upon a review of patients referred to the Clinic by primary care practitioners. The referrals included those from physicians, nurse practitioners, and physicians’ assistants. Doctors compared each diagnosis of a referring practitioner to the final diagnosis given by the Mayo Clinic. The original diagnosis was confirmed in only 12 percent of the casesThe Clinic completely changed the diagnosis in 21 percent of the cases. While this study followed only 286 patients in one clinic, the findings, along with other studies demonstrating the high number of diagnostic errors, suggests that there is a good chance that an initial diagnosis will at least be adjusted by a second medical care provider. Obtaining a second opinion can help increase the chance of a correct diagnosis, avoid incorrect treatment for a misdiagnosis, and accelerate the procurement of the correct treatment. Second opinions also can give patients real peace of mind.

Steps a Patient Can Take to Help

Here are a few things you can do to increase the likelihood of a correct diagnosis and better treatment:

  • Communicate clearly with all medical care professionals. Make sure they understand your symptoms and problems.
  • Keep notes of your symptoms to share with your doctor.
  • Keep records of all of your medical care to share with new providers. This includes past treatments and medications. Be sure to include side effects of any medications.
  • Ask questions to make sure that you and your doctor understand one another. Make sure you understand what your doctor thinks is causing your problem, along with all alternative treatment options.
  • Don’t be afraid to obtain a second opinion!

Consult with an Attorney

If you think you have been harmed as the result of a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis, please contact us with your questions. The experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield can help you investigate your case and get answers. We appreciate the good work of the medical care profession, but we also believe that all professionals must be held accountable for their negligence when it causes harm.