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When two heads are better than one.

The family doctor who brought his patients into the world and ministered to every medical need from cradle to grave has largely gone the way of the horse and buggy (the same one he probably drove to his patients' homes). Advances in medicine and surgery have come along at such a pace that no doctor can keep up with it all. Yet each of us should have a primary care physician--family practitioner or general internist--to whom we turn initially whenever medical problems arise.

Having placed confidence in such a person, what do we do when there may be reason to question his or her diagnosis or treatment--or that of a specialist to whom we have been referred? Asking for a second opinion should not be embarrassing, for a conscientious physician or surgeon always wants to be sure that the patient is comfortable with his or her judgment. Also, most insurance companies and employer health programs now require a second opinion before authorizing many kinds of treatment.

How, then, do we arrange for a second opinion? If one has a primary care physician, ask him or her for a referral. Alternatively, one can ask a local hospital, medical society, or the appropriate department of a medical school for a list of doctors in the particular field who provide second opinions.

It is wise to seek a second opinion under the following circumstances:

* Any proposed elective surgery;

* Any diagnosis of a rare or fatal disease;

* Any seemingly excessive number of tests or procedures;

* Any procedure in which the patient is not given a clear explanation of the risks, benefits, or reasons for doing it;

* Any illness in which certain symptoms persist and your doctor can't tell you why.

The doctor who provides the second opinion should give you a written report regarding his or her findings and recommendations. You should also get copies of all test results, including x-rays and laboratory reports. The one who gives the second opinion may also be engaged to provide the recommended treatment if your primary care physician is not qualified to do so.

Your health is the most important asset you possess. Don't jeopardize it for fear of offending your doctor--there is no reason he should be offended by a request for a second opinion.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:second opinions in medicine
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:To escape the heat, let the heat escape.
Next Article:When should one play doctor?

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