Can a Second Opinion Prevent a Misdiagnosis?

Posted on December 12, 2016 by Shapiro Law Group

Misdiagnosis is a common and potentially deadly medical error. For example, in a recent medical malpractice case in Chicago, a man went to a local hospital complaining of severe headache, neck pain, vomiting and disorientation. A doctor sent him home with pain medication instead of consulting with a neurologist or performing a CT scan. Two days later while at work, the attorney collapsed at his desk from a stroke. He now has significant brain damage and a greatly diminished quality of life. This case settled last month for $20 million. However, no amount of money can ever give this victim his old life back. Preventing misdiagnosis altogether is the ideal solution. But how? Could getting a second opinion prevent a misdiagnosis?

How Useful are Second Opinions?

According to a study published by BMJ Quality & Safety, 12 million Americans receive a misdiagnosis every year. Half of these incorrect diagnoses had the potential to cause serious harm. Some have argued that a second opinion can prevent an incorrect diagnosis.

A Wall Street Journal article published a story involving a woman who avoided a misdiagnosis of ovarian cancer by seeking a second opinion. Her doctors had performed a biopsy on multiple tumors, but the results were inconclusive. She sought a second opinion, and discovered she had a rare form of lymphoma. This time, she received the correct treatment. Four years later, she remained free of cancer.

Critics argue it is unclear whether second opinions can prevent a misdiagnosis. According to a patient safety researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, the first, second, or both diagnoses can be wrong.

Patients should remain involved in their care, especially when serious health conditions or illnesses are possible. One of the best ways for patients to become involved is to ask health care professionals plenty of questions while receiving care.

Do you think second opinions can prevent a medical misdiagnosis? Connect with the Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro Law Group and let us know your thoughts.

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