The Point of Second Opinions

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Patients are increasingly requesting second opinions regarding elective surgical procedures and insurance companies are following suit.  It would seem that people are starting to participate more actively in the process of taking care of their health.

Current medical practice seems to serve us well if one considers how many surgical procedures are completed successfully.  However, one must not forget about the ones that occasionally go wrong in the US and other parts of the world.

Allowing for second opinions in medical matters may lead to substantial savings in terms of time and expense; also, one may find substitutes for surgery in dealing with certain conditions.  Doctors treat their patients subjectively in terms of their own training and experience; knowledge of new techniques also plays a role.  Gleaning other opinions is no longer a rare occurrence and may actually be welcomed by your physician, especially if you explain that hearing an additional opinion may increase your confidence in dealing with your health issues.

As a starting point, request a reference from your doctor – he may recommend a colleague or specialist that he trusts.  If this is not possible you could always consult a medical society or medical school in your vicinity.

Be open with the physician from whom you are seeking the second opinion about what surgical procedure had been recommended to you to date and in order to avoid undergoing and paying for duplicate tests, tell him which medical tests have already been conducted.  If the second doctor deems it necessary for you to undergo surgery you may be referred back to your first doctor.

When it is clear that surgery is unavoidable, find out where your surgeon did his training and graduate and where he did his residency program.  It may also be useful to know how many similar procedures he had completed successfully and how many cases required further surgery afterwards.

Look out for the letters F.A.C.S (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons) after your surgeon’s name.  This is a good indicator of his competence and qualifications.

Once you have chosen the surgeon who will conduct the procedure for you, enquiry about what else to expect in terms of risks, possible complications and side effects and how long it will take you to recover after surgery.  Discuss your situation with previous patients and ensure that the surgical procedure is covered by the policy you took out with your insurance company and if so, as an in-patient or out-patient.  You have the right to be fully in the know about health care options that concern you – even more so if surgery is involved.


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