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Counting on an accurate diagnosis? First, seek a second opinion

Like most people, you probably have little in-depth medical knowledge. When their education and talents lie elsewhere, most individuals have little choice but to place their trust in doctors when it comes to medical treatments. After all, physicians go to school for years to make sure they have the training and expertise necessary to keep patients healthy.

Doctors, however, are only human, and humans make mistakes. Everyone has the occasional lapse in judgment or an off-day, prone to errors. Problems arise, though, when a doctor makes a poor judgment call, because it's no longer just an innocent oversight when lives are at stake. But how can you try to keep yourself and your family safe if you can't necessarily rely on your physician?

The increasing importance of second opinions

If you received a diagnosis of cancer, you might feel anything from shock to devastation to terror to sadness, or any combination thereof. You might even feel disbelief. One emotion you likely wouldn't feel, though, is doubt and mistrust, yet a recent medical malpractice case highlights all the reasons such distrust might not be such a bad idea.

The case involves a 36-year-old woman who underwent a hysterectomy and double mastectomy only to discover too late that the nurse practitioner and all subsequent physicians had misread the test results the surgeries were based on. The devastating scenario is garnering national attention and has prompted a list of recommendations on the importance of seeking a second opinion that includes the following advice:

  • Seeking a second opinion is your decision; don't let your current doctor — or anyone else — talk you out of it.
  • You can be direct with your doctor while remaining respectful, as you may need his or her professional aid with future medical tasks, such as coordinating care and transferring records.
  • While it can be tempting to seek an easy way out, try not to find a specialist who will simply give you good news and tell you what you're hoping to hear; your life could depend on a truthful and accurate diagnosis.
  • Try to make sure the second doctor you see has the entirety of your medical information and all relevant records; if the new physician doesn't have all the facts, this could complicate your care.

Increasingly, medical experts are stressing the importance of second opinions. This issue doesn't need to be about suspicion or cynicism, but rather an attempt to make sure that you are getting the best care possible and that everyone involved in your health care is making the most informed decisions.

When medical mistakes occur

Of course, at the end of the day, it's your physician's responsibility, not yours, to ensure you receive the correct diagnosis, the right medication, the best care. You could do everything possible to be a responsible patient who is proactive and involved in your own health care and still end up a victim of doctor error or negligence. If such a tragedy does occur, there are professional resources available in the Columbus, Ohio, area to help you explore options for legal recourse and pursuing justice for the injuries you suffered.

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