A Second Medical Opinion? Never a Bad Idea

March 16, 2016

It is not at all uncommon for patients to feel reluctant to seek out a medical opinion from a doctor other than their own. Studies have shown that the majority of patients are concerned that asking their doctor about getting a second opinion will create a rift in their doctor-patient relationship, which may negatively impact the future care they receive. For other patients, it may be the overall complexity of the healthcare system that simply overwhelms them, rendering them unable to focus on looking elsewhere for counsel. Others still, being intimidated and disheartened by their diagnosis, are simply not aware that they are prudently looking out for themselves by getting a second opinion. 

Regardless of these reasons, the vast majority of medical professionals understand and expect a patient to pursue a second opinion when the stakes are high. It will surprise many to learn that some insurance companies recommend, while others may even require, a second opinion from another medical expert.   

Perhaps the biggest reason why you should get that second opinion is because it provides your primary physician with more evidence of your diagnosis and another perspective on treatment. This may open new alternatives for treatment your current physician hasn’t considered or wasn’t aware of. Your doctor may even make recommendations or referrals to make the process easier. A study by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that more than half of breast cancer patients in their study group changed the course of their treatment after receiving a second opinion. If you do find yourself not knowing where to go to acquire that second opinion, then contact a medical association that specializes in your condition.  

Physicians should be objective and open to another professional’s perspective. If your doctor does respond negatively to, or does not support, the choice of a second opinion, then it may be time to start working with another doctor. Any doctor worth being in his/her position to care for you must be open to all viable options. Otherwise, by continuing a relationship with that doctor, you may put your health at risk or undergo unnecessary treatment.  

  • You may not be sure that you need or want a second opinion, so below is a brief list of reasons to help you determine whether that second opinion is called for: 
  • You suffer from a rare and life-threatening disease.  
  • You are about to undergo a serious, life-altering procedure that puts your quality of life at issue. 
  • Your health insurance requires it.  
  • You are interested in checking out clinical trials or any alternative therapies that may be available. 
  • Your doctor is not a specialist with enough verifiable experience in the field of the disease or condition you suffer from.  

As stated in the American Medical Association’s Patients’ Bill of Rights, “The patient has the right to and is encouraged to obtain from physicians and other direct caregivers relevant, current, and understandable information concerning diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.” Therefore, seeking a second opinion is not just good sense, but a legal right. 

Decisions affecting your health should never be taken lightly and you should always arm yourself with enough information to make a truly informed decision regarding treatment.  Remember, it’s your decision and maintaining your independence and quality of life can sometimes be at stake.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of MyCareMatch.com and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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