The Importance of a Second Opinion

Afraid of offending your doctor? Don’t be. We’re not afraid of offending you . The goal of a visit to a physician is to get well. If you have been given a diagnosis which requires serious intervention, long-term medication or surgery, consider a second opinion. While it is hard for some doctors to admit, we are “only human after all.” (Name the song and band – I’ll be very impressed.)

Let me share my sister’s story. After years of suffering intense, often-crippling back pain, she literally cured herself. (Too long a story for this entry, but check out Dr. John Sarno’s Healing Back Pain.) Five kids, — who does that?? – a couple of moves, and a new career later, she was still pain free. A couple of years ago, the pain returned but it was different. It had moved to the side and didn’t radiate to her toes as it had before. My sister is a woman who refuses to let a little thing like severe pain slow her down, so, she plodded on. Finally, a few weeks ago, she had another MRI. The doctor took one look, a good look, and gave her two options. Have surgery or deal with the pain for the rest of your life. Whoa … bummer, right? Clearly she does not have time for a long recovery. But, if she did need surgery, she was going to go to the best. She had an appointment with a respected doctor in NYC this week. Result — no surgery, physical therapy. While her back, based on MRI, is a hot mess, it isn’t the source of her pain. Her pain is coming from her hip. In this case, intense physical therapy is a blessing – funny what a little perspective will do.

Why you should get a second opinion.

1. Your doctor could be wrong. Maybe, as in my sister’s case, the diagnosis is not as grim as initially suggested. Or, the diagnosis may be more grave. If you continue to feel unwell, don’t be lulled into complacency by a benign diagnosis.

2. Your doctor could be right. A second opinion will give you peace of mind.

3. Your doctor may be right, but another physician may be able to offer different treatment options. This will empower you with choices.

4. Your doctor will not be offended. If she is, find a new doctor. There is no room for you in that office — her ego is taking up too much space.

5. Your health is your most important asset – just ask any billionaire who is chronically ill. You probably get opinions from a few people when picking a paint color or a new couch. Your well-being should be at least as important as your decorating.

I am not suggesting doctor shopping. Most often, you can take your doctor’s word. If you are being treated for an acute problem, one opinion is probably enough. If you have been with your doc for a long time, you clearly have high blood pressure, and he starts you on medication, you don’t need a second opinion. But, if you are looking at lengthy or serious treatment for a diagnosis that isn’t entirely clear, pick up the phone and make another appointment. You’ll be glad you did.


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