When in doubt, get a second doctor's opinion

Any patient with a complex, troubling condition quickly learns that it's hard to get a good diagnosis.

There are all kinds of medical conditions that are hard to diagnosis properly, including things like multiple sclerosis, lupus, migraines, compartment syndrome and even some types of cancer. Patients often have to go through multiple doctors and specialists, plus endless-seeming rounds of blood tests and body scans before they get a diagnosis.

Even then, doctors sometimes get the diagnosis wrong.

That's why it's incredibly important for patients to seek a second opinion when they aren't convinced of a doctor's diagnosis. If you've been struggling with a major medical problem and still feel uncertain about your doctor's diagnosis, there are special steps you need to take.

Decide if you need or want a second opinion

You have a legal right to get a second opinion, but is it really necessary?

Only you can decide, but you should always consider getting a second opinion if you are not 100 percent satisfied with your doctor's diagnosis. In addition, you may want to get a second opinion any time the recommended treatment for your condition requires extensive surgery or the use of strong drugs that could cause irreversible side-effects. It's your body, so you need to do your best to protect it!

Approach your doctor about your decision

If your diagnosis was made by your primary care doctor, ask to see a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. That way, you aren't arguing with your doctor's opinion, just asking for reassurance from someone with more training in the area of medicine concerned. If your diagnosis was made by a specialist, tell your primary care doctor that you want a referral to another specialist for a second opinion.

Prepare for your appointment

Have all your diagnostic tests and records sent ahead to the doctor who will be giving your second opinion. This will greatly reduce the amount of time it takes for you to get through the process. Let the doctor know you are coming for a second opinion. Explain the diagnosis, the recommended treatment and your concerns.

Mistakes are far too common to take chances with your health. It is far to easy too end up the victim of a devastating misdiagnosis unless you are willing to advocate for yourself, and that may mean challenging your doctor's opinion from time to time.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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