Sandhya Menon had already made up her mind, prepared herself to go on leave for surgery, and had computed the costs when the 55-year-old overheard another woman at the clinic talk about getting a second opinion.
This woman, in her early 30s, was there for a simple gynaecological consultation, and appeared determined to not go ahead with the treatment without getting it “cross-checked” by another equally competent doctor.
“We're from a generation where we simply tend to believe what the doctor says. We hear of doctors making people run around with one test too many, but we never [dream] the diagnosis could leave room for suspicion,” Ms. Menon said.
No surprises then that she was shocked — and immensely relieved — when the second doctor told her she did not need a hysterectomy, and her condition could be solved with medication and a far less complicated procedure.
Surprisingly, Ms. Menon said, she visited a leading government hospital in her hometown for the correct diagnosis, and did not rest until she got yet another “family doctor” to verify this. She confessed she used to think going for a second opinion was not only offensive to the doctor but also a “waste of time”, but quickly added she did not believe the first doctor was cheating her but had merely committed an error.
Second opinion is indeed important. While many patients have learnt to be sceptical of huge hospital setups that go hand-in-hand with medical burgeoning costs, the value of the second opinion is yet to make its mark among a large section of patients. This, despite second opinions having saved lives.
Ask Shiv Shankar, a tabla artiste, who was diagnosed with a tumour in his pituitary gland. He swears by the need for the all-important second opinion. As a result of the tumour, his fingers and toes were swollen, and he could not play his beloved instrument.
The first diagnosis was brain tumour, and he was told he would have to undergo surgery through the nose.
“This thought itself gave me sleepless nights. They told me [procedure] was not entirely safe, one in 1,000 patients ran the risk of death and there was a good chance I could lose my vision. Then a doctor friend of mine said that I should consult a specialist,” he said.
This turned out to be a “life-saver”. There was apparently an easy and less invasive way: cyberknife surgery. “It gave me a new lease of life. I was almost convinced that I would never lead a normal life, or worse, play the tabla again. I cannot emphasise more on the need for a second opinion,” said the 48-year-old.