Progress:

  • Get facts current
  • Compare options
  • Your feelings
  • Your decision
  • Quiz yourself
  • Your summary
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Get facts

Get facts

Seeking a second opinion for important healthcare decisions from another healthcare professional can give you reassurance that you have made the right decision or give you the opportunity to make a different choice about a diagnosis or treatment.

Even if you don't seek a second opinion, asking your current healthcare professional to explain your options in more detail can help if you are worried or uncertain about what to do next.

Key points

1. You have the right to ask for more information

At any stage during your care, you can ask a healthcare professional to give you more information or advice. You have the right to ask a doctor for a second medical opinion. However, a doctor is not legally obliged to provide a referral to a particular healthcare professional for this second opinion. Family and carers can ask for a second opinion on your behalf, if they have your formal consent.

2. Often healthcare professionals welcome a second opinion

Most healthcare professionals will welcome the opportunity to talk to another colleague about your health issues, so that they can work together to give you the best outcome.

3. Communication is a major reason why people ask for another opinion

People who request a second opinion often want more communication or reassurance that they understand all the options and are making the best decision.

4. You don't have to agree with the second opinion

Even when you get a second opinion, you don't have to accept and act on it. You may return to working with your usual doctor understanding all the choices and options you have available and feeling comfortable that you have made the right choice.

5. Your medical history is essential information for a new healthcare professional

Before getting a second opinion, ask your doctor to forward copies of your tests and reports to your new healthcare professional. If you don't use a regular GP, you will need to collect and share this information with the healthcare professional before you go to your first appointment.

How to use this tool

This tool will not tell you what to do. Instead, it will help you to reflect on what is important to you and prepare you to take your next steps. 

Use this tool to gather your thoughts, weigh up the benefits and risks, identify where you need more information and assess how you are feeling. It will take a little time to go through all the steps in the tool.

At the end of this guide, you will have a summary of your thinking in one place. You can then print this summary and use it to discuss the situation with family, friends and your GP. 

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a GP.

Compare options

 

Option A:

Work with your current health professional

Option B:

Seek another opinion

 

What are some benefits?

 

Continuity of care

Maintaining the same professional team can help reduce delays in making decisions about treatment.

Better feedback         

Asking questions and talking about your concerns will help your healthcare professional know where you need more information and advice.

Another perspective

A second opinion can provide a different professional perspective and may reveal other options for treatment.

Better match

Seeing a new healthcare professional can give a new approach and way of communicating that may suit you better.

What are some risks?
 

Human error

Even experienced healthcare professionals can make a mistake with diagnosis, especially if they lack specific experience with your issue.

Unnecessary treatment

Another treatment that is less invasive or less costly may not be identified or recommended.

Extra time, effort and money

New appointments and tests will take time and effort to coordinate, and may cost more.

Lack of consensus

The healthcare professionals may disagree and be unsure about what to do next.

 

What are the key steps?

 

Research

Prepare some questions for your healthcare professional. Use reliable and trusted sources to find out more about your health condition and treatment.

Discuss

Make an appointment and explain that you would like more information. Ask questions and keep notes. If something is unclear or confusing, ask for more detail.

Request

If you still feel uncertain, ask your healthcare professional if they can discuss your case with one of their colleagues.

 

Research

Do some research to find a recommendation for another healthcare professional. Use your networks, consult an advocacy or community group, or ask your current healthcare professional.

Inform                  

Explain to your current healthcare professional that you would like to get a second opinion and outline your reasons. You may want to take someone with you to the appointment for support.

Transfer

Arrange for your medical records to be forwarded to the new healthcare professional. You may also need a new referral from a doctor.

Your feelings

Your values and preferences are an important part of your decision-making process. Read the statements below and think about what matters most to you. Slide the bar left or right to record how you are feeling about the two options.

  • Option 1: Work with your current healthcare professional
  • Option 2: Seek another opinion
  • Option 1

    I'm not sure that I need a second opinion.
  • Option 2

    I have a clear idea about why I want a second opinion.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
  • Option 1

    I generally agree with the diagnosis and/or suggested treatment but I want more detail.
  • Option 2

    I am not convinced about the diagnosis and/or suggested treatment and I am prepared to completely rethink my options.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
  • Option 1

    I prefer a healthcare professional who has been treating me over time and knows my medical history.
  • Option 2

    I am happy to change healthcare professionals depending on what the situation requires.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
  • Option 1

    I don't want to spend any more time or money looking around for other options for treatment.
  • Option 2

    I am willing to put in the time to explore other options for treatment, even if it means extra money or effort.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

Your decision

Now that you have thought about the key issues and your preferences, think about where you stand on getting a second opinion. Move the scale below to show which way you are leaning right now.

Which way you're leaning

  • Option 1

    Work with your current healthcare professional. Ask your current healthcare professional to explain the options in more detail. You may find that you don't need a second opinion anymore.
  • Option 2

    Seek another opinion from a different healthcare professional. It is common to ask more than one healthcare professional about your illness or condition. This is called a second opinion.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

Quiz yourself

The questions below will help you think through what is important to you and where you may need more information. After answering these questions you will get a summary of what you have recorded as your priorities and concerns so far. You can take this with you to discuss with family or friends as well as your healthcare professional.

Check the facts

Question 1: Which of the following would be the most important reason for you to seek a second opinion for your situation?
Question 2: What would be your first task before you talk to a healthcare professional about getting a second opinion?
Question 3: What is your biggest concern about getting a second opinion?

Decide what's next

Question 1: Do you understand the options available to you?
Question 2: Are you clear about which benefits and side affects matter most to you?
Question 3: Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
Question 2: Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

Your summary

Your decision

Next Steps

Which way you're leaning

  • Option 1

    Work with your current healthcare professional. Ask your current healthcare professional to explain the options in more detail. You may find that you don't need a second opinion anymore.
  • Option 2

    Seek another opinion from a different healthcare professional. It is common to ask more than one healthcare professional about your illness or condition. This is called a second opinion.
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

How sure you are

The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts

Key concepts you understand
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Key concepts that may need review
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What matters to you

Your values and preferences are an important part of your decision-making process. Read the statements below and think about what matters most to you. Slide the bar left or right to record how you are feeling about the two options.

  • Option 1: Work with your current healthcare professional
  • Option 2: Seek another opinion

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The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
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The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
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The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.
  • 1 This text is replaced by JavaScript
  • 2 This text is replaced by JavaScript
The next control is a slider. You can use the up or right keys to increment its value, or the down or left keys to decrement its value. The values range from 1 to 7.