The Importance of a Second Opinion

Medical Second Opinion

Many people consider seeking the knowledge and advice of more than one doctor. This is called a second opinion. Once you receive your doctor’s opinion about the diagnosis and treatment plan, you may want to get another doctor’s advice before you start treatment. A second opinion can confirm or suggest modifications to your doctor’s proposed treatment plan, provide reassurance that you have explored all of your options, and answer any questions you may have.

In the current world, unfortunately medicine is a business and economic factors often cloud a practitioner's judgment. This is not because they mean to intentionally misguide you, but there are financial incentives involved and you should try to understand their potential influence on the doctors.

For example, if the procedure is done by the recommending physician and is the source of his/her income, then there is a heavy bias to believing that it is good for the patient.

Begin by telling your doctor that you'd like a second opinion. Any doctor worthy of the practice of medicine will be supportive. If he's not supportive, that's a red flag which means you will definitely need a second opinion.

It’s always advisable to choose the second doctor yourself rather taking the referral from your first doctor. In general, if the first opinion came from a doctor in a specific specialty area, consider getting the second opinion from someone of a different but related specialty. If you are getting a second opinion on surgery, consider getting the opinion from a non-surgeon.

When to seek a Second Opinion?

Medical experts note a second opinion is a good idea if you are:

  • Considering a major surgery
  • Diagnosed with a life-threatening disease such as heart disease or cancer
  • Given an unclear diagnosis on a health problem and you don't feel comfortable about what your doctor recommended.
  • Asked to participate in a clinical trial (research study involving people)

In summary, you should never hesitate to seek a second medical opinion if you are uncomfortable with the recommendations your doctor makes, particularly when you are being asked to undergo invasive testing, surgery or therapy and especially if you feel that you and your doctor haven’t enjoyed a level of communication that satisfies your concerns.