Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian who never got any respect, had a staple joke in his stand-up repertoire that went something like this:
Doctor Vinnie: “You need to lose some weight.” Rodney: “I want a second opinion.”
Doctor Vinnie: “OK, you’re ugly, too.”
Dangerfield levity aside, getting a second opinion is not a laughing matter, and seniors who are facing a serious diagnosis, or who don’t understand a course of treatment, should always seek a second opinion. Many seniors fear “offending” a favorite family practitioner, but from my experience, most (if not all) doctors prefer that patients seek out a second opinion – especially when facing a potentially life-threating illness.
So why is this practice of obtaining a second opinion so widely accepted? First and foremost, most physicians genuinely care about your health and well-being. Simply stated, they want you to be cured of what ails you. Secondly, as scientists, doctors are innately curious about all things physiological. Oftentimes, a second opinion is useful for gaining new perspective, new information and new options for dealing with medical conditions.
The time to consider seeking a second opinion comes when: you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition; surgery is recommended (especially in regards to elective procedures); your health is not improving; your primary doctor can’t diagnose the problem; and/or you are having difficulty understanding what you or a loved one are up against.
The best place to begin searching for a second opinion is the person who offered the original opinion. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your current physician, you can also ask friends or family members whose opinions you trust. Failing that, almost every genre of physicians can be located through the American Medical Association.
When seeking a second opinion, it’s critical that the second physician be fully aware of the original diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Second opinions can confirm the original assessment or can perhaps raise some overlooked strategies. Often doctors will offer differing treatment options, which gives you the opportunity to consider the approach you feel is best, given your unique situation.
Pursuing a second opinion may be an uncomfortable experience, but you should never be timid when it comes to your health, and it’s always the right thing to consider all of your medical options and to seek the very best medical advice.
The bottom line (if not the punch line) is that second opinions are truly a fact of life, and your doctor only wants what’s best for you.