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Second opinions could help save lives

Receiving proper medical treatment in a timely manner is of utmost importance to patients. However, that does not always happen.

Doctors may misdiagnose a patient's condition because they misread slides or scans or because they do not use the latest technologies. In some instances, doctors may be so sure of their original diagnosis that they ignore signs of another condition. To avoid these kinds of potentially fatal mistakes, some suggest that patients seek out a second opinion.

The vice president of medical operations at one hospital says as many as 25 percent of cancer patients who arrive at their facility receive a different diagnosis. Some of those patients even begin a completely different treatment.

Another medical facility found that about half of patients diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease had previously been told that they suffered from asthma and were receiving improper treatment.

Although some health insurance companies require patients to seek a second opinion, one doctor warns that not everyone needs a second opinion. He warns that patients could easily become overwhelmed if they begin seeking opinions from various different physicians.

Despite that warning, mistakes do happen and patients want to be sure they are receiving the best care possible. A radiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital says that he and other staff members within his department see misdiagnoses about eight percent of the time.

Although people want to believe that their doctors are giving them the best care possible, mistakes happen. In some cases, those mistakes can cost a person their life. But by being proactive and seeking a second opinion, patients may be able to begin receiving proper treatment in a more timely fashion.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "What if the Doctor Is Wrong?" Laura Landro, Jan. 17, 2012

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