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The What, When And How Of A Second Opinion

What is a second opinion?

Usually the second opinion is the referral of the particular medical situation to a second doctor or a second specialist to have a confirmation or otherwise of a particular condition or disease. There could be reasons that the expertise of a particular doctor is in doubt or that the disease is too complex for a single physician to give a final verdict.

When a second opinin is needed?

It is often the case the second opinion can be the referral to a more experienced practitioner than the first. There are often cases when a GP could well refer to a more experienced specialist. The need of a second view could also be the rare nature of certain condition as well.

It could also be that the first point of referral is not that well equipped to give out a diagnosis in totality. Most cases when insurance companies are involved, they would recommend that a second opinion is taken from a doctor that meets certain criteria. If the first point of reference does not meet this standard, then a second opinion is sought.

At times, the doctor in the first referral could have certain vested interest in the case, either directly or indirectly. For instance, if the doctor in question is also the specialist for the disease as well, then it is evident that his judgment could get influenced by the advanced knowledge that he processes; here a more neutral opinion is sought.

When in a tight situation, a second opinion is taken to help arrive at a more informed decision. Most doctors are impartial in their handling of a case. They are trained to be so from the early stages of their medical education. But there are numerous instances when the practitioner could be biased. Whenever such a scenarios arises it is usual that a second opinion is sought.

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How is a second opinion done?

There are certain accepted methods to seeking a second opinion. Ideally the first consultant is informed of the decision. This could work in most cases and he could recommend a specialist to consult. But there are a lot of instances when it becomes prudent that the first doctor is kept in the dark.

A true second opinion must not be influenced by the first diagnosis. This is rarely the case. A good referral would insist that the records pertaining to the first consultation are kept away from him till asked for. The doctor would then proceed to make an independent study and come to a conclusion. If there are similarities in the case at hand, then he would review the cases later after a thorough study.

As is the case with a good GP, the referral to the specialist is done at his insistence. Most practitioners would have a set of specialists that can be readily referred to when needed. In this line of work, advanced knowledge is at a premium.


Thus, ideally a referral to a second doctor must be with the knowledge of the first. But there are instances when it would be prudent to keep the news about the referral away from the first consultant doctor. A good amount of discretion is to be exercised in taking the opinion of a second doctor.