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How and when to request a second opinion

You may feel awkward or embarrassed about requesting a referral for a second opinion. It may seem like a vote of no-confidence in your doctor.

A good doctor understands the value of seeking confirmation of a troubling diagnosis or having a fresh pair of eyes look at refractory symptoms. As a patient, you have a right to seek a second opinion whenever you wish, and your doctor should respect that.

When should you request a second opinion?

AARP identifies several scenarios in which it may be beneficial to seek a second opinion. If you have received a diagnosis that you feel unsure about, a second opinion is appropriate. It is also a good idea to seek a second opinion if you have symptoms that have failed to improve with your current treatment course.

How should you request a second opinion?

Though it may be difficult if you have a longstanding relationship with your primary doctor, you should make a direct request for a second opinion. Try to keep your emotions in check. Concentrate on facts, such as, “This is a life-changing diagnosis,” or “These symptoms have not improved with the current treatment course.”

Doctors know their limitations and, in some cases, you may not have to request a second opinion referral yourself. Your doctor may offer to refer you to a specialist. According to the Mayo Clinic, you are unlikely to receive a completely different diagnosis as a second opinion, but you may receive a more refined diagnosis than the one your primary doctor gave you. Ideally, both physicians can then work together to create a new treatment plan based on the most current information.