When you should consider getting a medical or surgical second opinion

Each physician or surgeon has a unique perspective, based on his or her education, training, and experience. And that perspective guides recommendations for a patient’s plan of care.

This is one reason why considering a second opinion on elective or non-emergency medical or surgical care is often a good idea.

Another reason we see from time to time is that some physicians, surgeons, and providers seem eager to proceed with the costliest, often invasive, treatment before trying other more conservative approaches.

To be clear, I believe that the overwhelming majority of doctors, nurses, and providers approach their professions with integrity and patient well-being in mind. Over the course of my career, though, I’ve met some surgeons whom I believe would operate on anyone, whether it was needed or not.

Here are some tips on how you can use a second opinion to improve your safety as a patient:

• If your visit to a medical or surgical practice seems more like a sales infomercial than a professional setting, it should raise a red flag. We’ve had clients inform us that they were pressured into signing treatment agreements and making a deposit before even being allowed to see their plastic surgeons. Any time you’re pressured into making an immediate decision for non-emergency care, it’s my opinion that the decision is clear: “No.” These situations are a perfect time to get a second opinion.

• Whether as a first or second opinion, whenever there’s a discussion of a treatment plan, make sure to ask about alternative treatments and the relative risks and benefits of each treatment. If the physician or surgeon only offers one treatment possibility, then consider getting a second opinion.

• Inquire about where a recommended surgery will be performed. Some surgeons now perform any procedures in their office or in a surgery center they own, rather than in a hospital setting. This allows the surgeons to benefit financially from lucrative facility fees. This is another factor to consider when deciding whether a second opinion may be needed.

• When time and circumstances allow it, get a second opinion from two physicians or surgeons from different practice groups or systems.

• If you’re a patient at a large teaching or academic hospital or medical center, make sure you understand the role of the person seeing you. Is it a physician assistant? Is it a nurse practitioner? Is it a resident physician or a fellow, meaning a medical doctor who’s still finishing his or her clinical training? If these types of physicians or providers are the ones handling your exam and communicating your treatment plan, you can ask to be seen by an attending physician.

In my experience, most patients don’t get a second opinion until after something has gone wrong with the surgery or medical treatment. By then, it’s typically too late to make a difference because the damage is already done. In those situations, patients sometimes ask other physicians or surgeons to speculate or share an opinion on what they think went wrong. When new clients share this information with us, we are invariably told that these opinions almost always evaporate when there is a medical malpractice lawsuit. Subsequent treaters rarely want to get involved.

That’s why if you have been seriously injured because of poor medical or surgical care in Texas, it’s important to contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
Article by

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.