Posted by Bill Sandweg.
A second opinion can save your life and these days there is very little excuse not to get one no matter where you live. I have written about the importance of second opinions from time to time in the past. You can find some posts here and here. Second opinions came to mind again when I read a recent story about them in the Washington Post.
The story raises some points I have discussed in the past. Rigorous studies have shown that second opinions very often either change the original diagnosis or refine it significantly in ways that make a difference in the treatment options available to the patient. Since a diagnosis and the treatment it suggests can sometimes be life saving, you want to be sure that it is a correct diagnosis. Sometimes the diagnosis is a bad one and you want to be sure it is correct. Good for you. Sometimes, however, the diagnosis is that you do not have the bad disease you were worried about. A note of caution: Just because the diagnosis is a negative one does not mean that you should not get a second opinion. What if the doctor was wrong and you do have the bad disease and it is treatable? You both want to know that and need to know that so don’t stick you head in the sand and say everything must be fine. Similarly, if you have an important test and you do not hear back from the doctor, do not assume that no news is good news. Call and get your test result.
The Post article also gives some good advice about where to go for your second opinion. The first good piece of advice is not to go to a partner or friend of the doctor who gave you the first diagnosis. Going to one of these people greatly increases the likelihood that the diagnosis will be confirmed and unchanged. Better to go to someone who won’t be afraid to reach a different conclusion.
You should also be looking for a practice associated with a teaching institution or one that specializes in diagnosis such as the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic, both of which have excellent reputations which are well-deserved. You will likely be spending your own money for this and want the best opinion you can get. Be sure that the physician offering the second opinion is well-qualified to provide it. A doctor’s qualifications are usually pretty easy to find on the internet.
Second opinions are much easier to get now because of the internet and usually don’t even require you to go to the location where the second opinion doctor practices. All you need to do is send your complete medical records for the diagnosis.
Your doctor should want the best for you and should not be offended by your decision to get a second opinion. Don’t let your doctor be a roadblock to the second opinion you deserve.