There various scenarios where patients would probably want a second opinion from another physician. A common experience among healthy individuals who go for a routine executive check-up is that of being told that something turned up in their laboratory results, which needs to be evaluated further. These people often have no symptoms and are not ready to hear any bad news regarding their health. But then they are asked to undergo another test, which leads them to see a specialist who subsequently recommends a procedure, such as cardiac catheterization, that will prevent a future catastrophe, such as a heart attack. Shocked with such a proposition, the patient naturally wants to be sure if he really needs the procedure done, considering that he never even thought he was sick.
Another scenario is that of a sick patient who would rather hear from another expert that the dreaded diagnosis is probably flawed or that a more conservative form of treatment will make him get better, even without surgery. Still, some patients who have seen a doctor just once or a few times would like to go to someone else they trust, especially if a doctor-patient relationship has not been well established.
The truth is, even doctors ask their colleagues for their opinions regarding their diagnosis and management of certain problematic cases. They discuss interesting cases in their grand rounds and conferences. And it is not uncommon for doctors to have varying opinions, based on their clinical experience and expertise. Furthermore, it is also possible that a second opinion does not lead a patient to a decision or acceptance of his situation, but instead leads him to seek a third or fourth opinion until he finds the answers to his questions or likes what he hears.
Although a few physicians will not appreciate a patient's need to hear another expert opinion, many doctors will recommend that their patients get a second opinion, and will even give them a referral to another colleague or known expert. However, it is often the patient's initiative which will drive him to seek further information to get proper treatment.
When and Why Should You Get a Second Opinion?
Just as there are many patients who seek a second opinion, there are some patients who are not sure if they should ask for one. Some patients are afraid their doctors might not be pleased if they learn that their patient did not trust them while others are not sure if their health insurance will cover the cost of getting a second opinion. However, experts strongly recommend seeking one in these instances:
When a recommended procedure involves a high risk of dying, suffering a stroke or incurring severe infection. Examples include heart bypass surgery or valvular heart disease surgery.
When a doctor recommends cardiac catheterization even if you have no symptoms.
When a doctor recommends elective hysterectomy, but there are other options of treatment such as hormonal therapy or other conservative measures.