The Importance of a Second Opinion

Second opinions are one of the most important things you can to do protect your health. In fact, given that diagnostic errors are one of the most common types of medical malpractice, a second opinion just might save your life.

A proper diagnosis is crucial to the administration of appropriate medical treatment, and the failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis can delay or prevent necessary medical treatment or cause adverse drug reactions. As we recently reported, diagnostic mistakes are alarmingly common, resulting in injuries or deaths to more than 160,000 patients each year. According to a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, diagnostic errors account for nearly 29 percent of claims, which exceeded the percentage of claims related to incorrect treatment, botched surgery, or improper medication.

Although patients are sometimes reluctant to get a second opinion, a second opinion is an important part of adequate health care, especially when dealing with a serious illness like cancer or unexplained medical symptoms. According to the New York Times, evidence is mounting that second opinions can lead to significant changes in a patient’s diagnosis or in recommendations for treating a disease, particularly with respect to radiology images and biopsy pathology slides. As the article points out, some cancer malignancies, such as lymphomas and rare cancers of the thyroid and salivary glands, are difficult to diagnose correctly, with test results often inconclusive or yielding false results.

According to ThomasFeeley, vice president of medical operations at MD Anderson, as many as 25% of patients who arrive at the center with diagnoses for certain cancers, such as lymphoma, may receive a different diagnosis, with 3% of the center’s patients getting altered treatment as a result of the correct diagnosis.

A second opinion might alert you to a misdiagnosis before additional medical harm is done, and even if the initial diagnosis is confirmed, a second opinion can provide reassurance and additional information regarding treatment options.

“When you get cancer, the first thing you may want to do is jump to get treatment with the first person you talk to,” Dr. Feeley has said. “But taking the time to get a second opinion about the diagnosis you have and a careful evaluation of what treatments there are can be lifesaving.”

The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Cogan & Power, P.C. are dedicated to protecting the victims of medical mistakes, including diagnostic errors, and we encourage patients to seek a second opinion when possible, especially when dealing with a diagnosis of cancer or other serious medical condition.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has been the victim of a diagnostic error, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with one of our skilled Chicago medical malpractice attorneys.