How do I know if my doctor is right?

Getting a second medical opinion is every patient’s right and may make the difference between experiencing or avoiding a mistake.

Frequently, patients find themselves questioning their doctors' diagnoses or treatment plans. However, people often feel hesitant to voice any doubt about their doctors' opinions. After all, society teaches everyone to blindly "trust your doctor" and refrain from consulting "Dr. Google" about symptoms. While it is usually wise to trust a doctor's opinion and comply with the recommended treatment plan, patients should feel comfortable asking detailed questions, voicing disagreement or confusion, and obtaining second opinions. Health outcomes are often greatly benefited by the patient's own motivation to be knowledgeable about his or her condition and treatment options. In fact, insurance companies sometimes require a patient to obtain a second opinion before approving coverage of certain types of treatment.

Good doctors welcome patient advocacy

As explained by the Patient Advocate Foundation, patients should know that any reputable and honest physician will not be offended by a patient's request for a second opinion and rather, will likely respect and welcome it. Medical professionals are influenced by their own unique experiences during their education, training, and practice. The medical institutions at which they work even have distinct cultures that may lend one provider to make a more aggressive treatment recommendation than another.

On the other hand, a patient might find that both medical professionals recommended the same treatment plan, which allows the patient to feel more confident and comfortable with the first physician's opinions going forward.

Key times when a second medical opinion is warranted

While patients should always feel welcome to obtain a second opinion, some situations especially warrant this type of proactive behavior. For instance, if a person is presented with a diagnosis that he or she does not fully understand, seeking clarity from another professional may be helpful. Furthermore, if a patient is diagnosed with a serious, progressive, or terminal condition, the hassle of obtaining a second opinion is generally worthwhile to be absolutely sure that the diagnosis is accurate and that the patient is given the best treatment possible. This is especially true when a patient is asked to participate in a clinical trial or other form of experimental treatment.

Multiple conditions can benefit from second opinions

Certain diseases and symptoms benefit from second opinions more than others. Cancer, for example, is still relatively mysterious and difficult to precisely diagnose, stage, and treat.

Heart attacks are often missed by medical professionals, especially in female patients, who are less likely to exhibit traditional heart attack symptoms. One study found that approximately 53 percent of female heart attack victims had been originally misdiagnosed. (The same was true for 37 percent of males.)

Patients deserve to advocate for themselves

Whether healthy or sick, every person has the right to proactively take control of his or her health care. This extends to those unfortunate situations when a mistake has happened or is suspected to have occurred. In these times, Michigan residents should reach out to an attorney to learn how to seek justice and compensation.