Getting a second medical opinion

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

What is a second opinion in the medical field? When another physician exams you and provides a professional viewpoint about your health condition/problem and how to treat it. I’m not discussing emergency surgeries—that’s another topic.

Will my first physician be upset with me if I seek out a second opinion? I hope not. And if he/she verbalizes anger or heaps on guilt because you want to be an informed patient in order to make an informed decision—you may want to fire that doctor.

When your physician says you have a health problem that needs surgery, you have the right to know and understand your treatment choices; have another physician exam you (a second opinion); and participate in treatment by voicing your informed opinion about what you do and don’t want.

Getting a second opinion doesn’t mean you have to change physicians. The consumer/patient chooses which physician he/she wants to perform surgery. However, information and knowledge is needed to make a wise decision.

Find Out When a Second Opinion is Covered

Is the procedure medically necessary? That’s probably the first question you will be asked. And that information comes from the physician and your medical records.

Contact your health insurance provider and ask for the policy in writing concerning second and third opinions about surgery, non-surgical procedures, or other recommended treatments.

Medicare and second opinions. According to the official U.S. government website, “Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers a second opinion in some cases for surgery that isn’t an emergency.”

Medicare and third opinions. Frustration can ensue when different physicians give opposing medical views. What do you do? “Medicare also will help pay for a third opinion if the first and second opinions are different.”

Finding Another Physician for a Second Opinion

Most physicians want patients to get second opinions. And would do the same for their own family members or themselves. So ask for the name of other physicians. Another option is to contact your health insurance provider to see what other physicians are covered by your plan. Utilize the Internet to research physicians/surgeons that specialize in your specific diagnosis, illness, or injury. Visit your public library and ask for help from the reference librarian.

What to Do When You Get a Second Opinion

Sign the necessary forms so your physician can send a copy of your medical records to the selected physician, including tests and reports. Write down a list of questions. Ask why the surgery is necessary and discuss any non-surgical options.

For example, a 2017 article, Get A Second Opinion Before Knee, Shoulder or Hip Surgery, outlined common reasons for obtaining a second opinion. Reasons include: a physician that states surgery is the only option and does not explain a rationale or the benefits; when a physician prefers open surgery through an incision vs. minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery; or when the surgery did not work and additional surgeries are being recommended.

According to a research study in the 2017 Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 21 percent (62 out of 286 patients) sent for a second opinion showed different first diagnoses.

Several years ago, one of my therapy clients was misdiagnosed by her psychiatrist. After a thorough medical and psychiatric history and assessment, I researched her signs/symptoms in reputable (peer reviewed) medical journals and referred her for a second opinion with another psychiatrist and to a neurologist. Her first psychiatrist blasted me over the telephone. The client was raised next to the nuclear power plant in the Ukraine during the Chernobyl accident. After a CAT Scan, the neurologist found a brain tumor and the second psychiatrist concurred that she did not have Bipolar Disorder.

Please note that I am not a physician, nor am I offering medical advice. But I do want consumers to be aware of information concerning second opinions. An informed patient is a wise patient.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. Contact her at

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. Contact her at