Ethical and legal implications arise both when seeking a second medical opinion and when providing one. There has been debate as to whether a second opinion for a patient is a right or a concession and whilst today most would consider it to be a patient's right, there are nevertheless some disadvantages associated with seeking a second opinion. This article addresses the reasons why patients seek second opinions, it considers when physicians themselves should refer patients and it covers the issues involved in providing a second opinion particularly in cases where there is the potential for an allegation of malpractice. Finally, the arguments for and against treating patients who are referred for a second opinion are addressed. This paper has been prepared following a round table discussion on this subject, which was addressed during a symposium on Ethics in Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy held in Kos in 2006.
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