When is it a good idea to get a second opinion?
Second opinions should strongly be considered when there is a potentially life threatening medical condition, like back surgery, when the proposed treatment options are intensive or demanding, like major surgery, or when there is a chance for a very bad outcome or complication, i.e. brain surgery. By having a second opinion, particularly in these high stakes situations, patients and their families will have the opportunity to have a second set of eyes double check to see if the original diagnosis and treatment plan are reasonable as well as a chance to hear someone else explain the problem which may be more understandable and enlightening.
When you receive a diagnosis that is urging you to consider spine surgery, making the decision for surgery and selecting a highly experienced surgeon suddenly becomes your number one priority. Short of an emergency, no matter how little time you have, please get a second opinion, even a third. You will be putting your life in this professional’s hands. You owe it to yourself to investigate all the risks and benefits, to take it all in, to discuss the decision-making with several close allies, then – most of all — to check in with yourself and to honor your own gut feeling.
You know how to do it
With any other big decision – purchasing a new car or deciding to get married, for example – people instinctively seek out multiple opinions. Others voice their unsolicited opinion. When making a decision which could mean the difference between life or death, patients should not be shy about getting a second opinion. Patients should also ask their primary care doctor about their thoughts and understanding of the treatment plan of the first doctor and the need for a second opinion.
Why are patients reluctant to get second opinions?
Patients may be afraid that their doctor won’t take care of them in the future because they are asking for a second opinion. They may not feel the need to get a second opinion since they are comfortable with their doctor. They may not be aware that getting a second opinion is a good idea. They don’t know how to ask for a second opinion.