What is a second medical opinion?
A second medical opinion is when you consult with a doctor that is not your regular doctor about a potential diagnosis and/or treatment plan. There is no legal right to a second opinion, however, it is rare for a doctor to refuse.
Why would you get a second medical opinion?
Patients may consider a second medical opinion if they are facing a new diagnosis or recommended treatment because sometimes this can feel confusing and a second opinion can put their mind at ease.
In addition, there are certain situations where a second medical opinion is sought after:
- Potential treatment is risky and could be life-changing or the diagnosis is possibly life-threatening
- The diagnosis is not clear-cut
- If you are considering a new treatment approach that is experimental
The aims of obtaining a second medical opinion are:
- To confirm whether a diagnosis is correct and/or appropriate.
- To confirm whether a suggested treatment is correct and/or appropriate.
- To compare information received from each doctor so that you can make an informed decision – sometimes a second medical opinion can rule out the need for a potentially unnecessary invasive procedure.
Possible disadvantages of seeking a second medical opinion include:
- The process can delay the start of treatment.
- Logistically, seeing another specialist might be difficult and possibly time-consuming.
- It might be stressful to hear the same diagnosis again.
How would you seek a second medical opinion?
You can request a second medical opinion from your GP or consultant, but before doing so it is recommended that you ask for as much clarification and explanation about the initial diagnosis and treatment, before seeking a second opinion.
Obtaining a second medical opinion does not mean that the second doctor will then take over – if that is what the patient decides, then this needs to be agreed formally between doctors and hospitals.