When is it Okay to Request a Second Opinion From Your Doctor?

Receiving news that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious or rare medical condition can be very overwhelming and scary. While it is important to listen to and follow your doctor’s instructions, it is also appropriate in these situations to seek the advice of other professionals and request a second opinion.

Unfortunately, less than half of the people diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening disease request a second opinion. The most frequent reasons individuals cited for not doing so include: feeling an urgency to seek treatment right away, lack of access to experts or centers of excellence, fear that their insurance carrier would not cover the cost, and concerns about offending their doctor.

In most cases, these reasons are unmerited; in reality, many conditions do not require immediate treatment and most physicians welcome a second opinion. In addition, many insurance providers allow for second opinions and can even help identify local experts that participate in your plan.

So, when is getting a second opinion a good idea? According to WebMD, the following circumstances are appropriate:

  • Where the treatment is very risky or toxic
  • Where the diagnosis is not clear, the treatment is experimental, or there is no established consensus or Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment
  • If you’re considering participating in a trial for a new drug
  • If you’re considering some new experimental approach or a procedure that involves using experimental instruments or devices.

In many cases, second opinions are very beneficial.  In fact, a recent study highlighted their potential value.  Researchers found  that as many as 88% of those who sought a second opinion for a complex medical condition had a new diagnosis that changed their treatment plan, and 21% received a completely different diagnosis.

If you would like to seek a second opinion, but are unsure of how to start the conversation with your doctor, try some of these tips.

  • Tell your doctor you want to be sure that you explore all your treatment options. This may include looking into several surgical and non-surgical interventions.
  • Let your doctor know that you always talk to more than one expert when you need to make an important decision, whether it’s a medical, financial, or personal decision.
  • Explain to your doctor that a second opinion would give you peace of mind that your diagnosis and treatment plan are the best option for you.

Even if a second opinion doesn’t change your diagnosis or treatment plan, you can feel satisfied that you made a well-informed decision.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.