When you're facing a tough
health care decision, you may have a hard time knowing what to do. Is surgery the answer?
Is that expensive test the right choice? Is it best to get treatment, or watch
To answer the big questions, it's a good idea to talk
to more than one doctor. This is called getting a second opinion.
By Jessie Knadler
You didn't see it coming. You didn't even feel it land — until a split second
later when you suddenly realize you've had the wind knocked out of you. What
just hit you? Someone's nasty comment, and it's cut you to the core.
Sometimes a faultfinder disguises her disapproval as a quasi-compliment:
"I would have never had the courage to talk to my boss the way you
did." Other times, a jab takes the form of a cautionary tale: "You're
going on a cruise? I still get nightmares...
health care, you probably don't need a second opinion. But a second opinion may
be a good idea if:
You are deciding about a costly or risky
test or treatment, like a surgery.
not clear about how well a test or treatment may work.
more information about your options.
You are unsure about a diagnosis.
How do you get a second opinion?
Ask your doctor for
the name of another expert, someone with whom he or she is not closely
connected. Explain that this is how you like to make big medical decisions.
Don't worry about offending your doctor. Second opinions are expected.
If you aren't comfortable asking your doctor for a name, check with your
insurance company, a local medical society, or the nearest university
If you are deciding
about a surgery or other special treatment, ask your primary care doctor (such as your internist or family doctor) for the name of a surgeon or specialist who doesn't work with your current
surgeon or specialist. Also think about getting an opinion from a
health professional with a different background.
When getting a
second opinion, follow these steps:
Ask your health
insurance company if it covers a second opinion. For some surgeries, it's
Schedule a visit with the second doctor. Give yourself enough
time to arrange for your medical records to get there before your appointment.
first-opinion records sent ahead to the second doctor.
Look at the
list of forms below, and print the ones that fit your needs best. Use the forms
to take notes and to help you remember what questions you want to ask.
Have the second doctor's office send a report to your primary
doctor, the one who manages all your care. This keeps all of your medical
information in one place.