Ethical and legal implications in seeking and providing a second medical opinion

Dig Dis. 2008;26(1):11-7. doi: 10.1159/000109379. Epub 2007 Dec 14.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Liability, Legal*
  • Malpractice
  • Physicians
  • Referral and Consultation / ethics*
  • Referral and Consultation / legislation & jurisprudence*