Medicine: Second Look at Second Opinions

Do they help reduce surgery, or increase it?

Each year about 20 million operations are performed in the U.S. Though surgeons claim that at most only 1% of these are unnecessary, some observers put the figure at more than 15%. Among the procedures said to be the most overdone: hysterectomies, tonsillectomies, gall bladder removals and operations on the the spine. To cut down on excessive use of the scalpel and, not incidentally, soaring medical-care costs, in the past few years federal agencies and insurance companies have been urging patients to get an independent second...

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