By Joel Alderman
It is considered good practice, it is even recommended, and is usually covered by Medicare and other health insurance plans, that when a person has doubts or wants assurances about a medical diagnosis or course of action, he or she will seek out what has come to be known as a second opinion.
Why do the New York Yankees, Major League Baseball, and the Players’ Association live in a different world?
I am not necessarily an Alex Rodriguez advocate. But this is America, and we are all supposed to have a freedom of choice, especially when it concerns our own bodies, our own health and our own welfare.
This is not the Biogenesis situation, which looms over his head. This deals with the simple medical alternative of seeking a second opinion, which has become a routine and intelligent step taken by the general public.
A-Rod should not be disciplined or criticized by the Yankees, the union, the media or fans for doing what the rest of us can freely do, and are even encouraged to do. Many of us have been, or know those who have been, in such a position and who are familiar with physicians who suggest, recommend and often urge their patients to get second opinions. This is especially common for people who have certain doubts or concerns.
Because doctors are not infallible it is often wise to get another perspective. In this case the first opinion was by a doctor or doctors the Yankees had sent him to and who diagnosed a Grade 1 quadriceps strain. Alex had not been examined by a personal physician of his choice.
Although the doctor Rodriguez finally did use had his own issues not too long ago, those were unrelated to the present situation. He relied on the M.R.I. results provided to him without a face-to-face examination. The doctor never claimed otherwise, only that his opinion was based on a reading and interpretation of what a particular M.R.I. showed. He didn’t even say it was the same M.R.I the Yankees had ordered. The conclusion he arrived at was presented at “face value.”
It is fairly common knowledge that there are web sites that offer second opinions on line. Would A-Rod also have been in violation if he had gone that route?
Under ideal circumstances, which these admittedly were not, the Yankees are still not bound to accept or evaluate a second opinion that a player obtains. A team can use its own criteria and doctor or doctors to decide if and when one of its hired hands should play in a game. That is the Yankees’ right. After all, it’s their team.
But at the same time there is another right involved. It is the right of someone like Alex Rodriguez to get a second opinion if he wants one, if for no other reason than his own peace of mind. Just as the Yankees have a right to play or not play him because it’s their team, Rodriguez has a right to a second opinion because it’s his body.
Someone ought to challenge the clause in the standard players’ contract in which a player signs away his right to get a second opinion, at his own expense, without the team having the option of giving or not giving him permission. Does any other business outside of baseball or professional sports have that privilege? Why is someone required to get permission to do something that is his right to do in the first place?
We are still talking about America. As we are reminded in the words of our National Anthem, which is heard before each Major League game, we are, after all, “the land of the free.” That must include free to get a second opinion.
Too bad it doesn’t apply to Alex Rodriguez.