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Seeking Second Opinions When You Receive a Diagnosis or Require Surgery

A second opinion is defined as a physician other than your regular provider who reviews your medical records and condition to provide a diagnosis. This second opinion may be the same as your regular provider’s, or it may differ.

Two physicians in the same area of practice may have two different diagnoses or varying treatment options based on their backgrounds. Plus, a doctor may have a unique and contrasting experience in treating the patient’s disease, working with medical technology, and clinical approaches based on his or her training and experience.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that getting a second opinion from a different physician may provide you with a fresh perspective and new information. Plus, it may give you some new options to consider for treating your condition. There are doctors who take a more conservative or traditional approach to treating their patients, while others are more aggressive and use the newest treatments, medications, and therapies.

Asking for a second opinion happens frequently, so your regular doctor shouldn’t have an issue. Moreover, some doctors will recommend this to their patients. That way, the patient will feel more confident about his or her diagnosis and treatment plan.

The Mayo Clinic says that spending time educating yourself about your condition and getting a second or even a third opinion is a reasonable approach. This type of proactive decision-making gives the patient greater control over the course of treatment. Patients should make decisions after they have been thoroughly informed about the diagnosis, prognosis, and available treatment options.

When Should I Ask for a Second Opinion?

There are many reasons why a patient may seek a second opinion during the course of care. Perhaps the patient doesn’t feel comfortable with their doctor’s ability to treat the condition, or the patient has a rare or unusual condition. Another reason to look for another opinion may be because the patient’s condition isn’t responding to the current treatment.

But you don’t even need a compelling reason to get a second opinion. Here are a few reasons for getting a second opinion:

  • Your doctor thinks something is wrong but isn’t sure;
  • Your diagnosis is rare or unusual;
  • You want to understand other treatment options;
  • You want a specialist to consider your diagnosis and treatment options;
  • You’ve read or heard about other treatments that your current doctor isn’t offering;
  • You don’t think you’re communicating very well with your provider and want to try talking to another provider; and
  • You want to weigh all the risks and benefits of your treatment options.

Be prepared for a second opinion appointment. Because you are meeting with a provider who doesn’t know you, your medical history, or your current diagnosis, be sure you tell their office you’re coming in for a second opinion. Inquire about what medical records you should deliver to them in advance. In addition, bring the following items to your visit, if you have them:

  • Any test, lab, or biopsy results;
  • Your current provider’s treatment plan;
  • Your surgery reports or a discharge plan if you were in the hospital;
  • A list of your medications and any over-the-counter medicines; and
  • Your list of questions.

The Mayo Clinic’s Tips

The Mayo Clinic has some important suggestions for seeking a second opinion. First, if you don’t have a recommendation, look for a provider who specializes in your condition and has experience.

  • Ask your insurance provider to determine the scope of coverage for the procedure or treatment. See if the visit to get a second opinion is in or out of your network. Also, check to see that the new specialist accepts your insurance.
  • When you schedule your appointment, see if the facility has a specialist with experience in treating your condition.
  • Bring your medical records, such as copies of scans, exams, previous treatment, blood tests, and pathology slides to the appointment.
  • Tell the new provider why you’re seeking a second opinion and communicate your primary needs for the visit.
  • Consider your plan for your next steps. You may need to transfer your care or have the treatment plan be communicated to your original doctor for care.


If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a medical mistake, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm.

For a free consultation with an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney, contact Buchanan Firm. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been serious injured as the result of medical malpractice.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you