AfterShock: what to do when the doctor gives you -- or someone you love -- a devastating diagnosis, Jessie Gruman Ph.D.

AfterShock: Free App

APPENDIX E: Clinical Trials and Second Opinion Services

Appendix E gives advice about clinical trials which are research studies with people — instead of mice or cells in a test tube — as the focus of the study. Clinical trials can test a new drug, a new surgical technique or even a new type of alternative therapy such as meditation to determine whether the treatment is safe and effective.

Information is also provided about second opinion services. Before the Internet, second opinion services were mostly confined to hospitals and are still the most popular option for most patients seeking additional opinions after recommendations from their physician, friends and family. Hospital-based second opinion services generally offer to send your health record and diagnosis for review to members of their staff who specialize in your condition.

The plus sides of hospital-based services are that they are local, they are often free (unless you schedule a face-to-face appointment with one of the hospital's specialists) and they are relatively easy to use. In most cases, you can arrange for a review of your records after one short phone call.

A small sample of resources from the appendices in the 2010 edition of AfterShock were reviewed and updated in June 2014. No further updates are anticipated.

Sample Resources:

The National Institutes of Health is a good place to start learning about clinical trials. This comprehensive site includes a short discussion of what clinical trials are and how they work, including the benefits and risks of participating in a trial, the process of informed consent and how patients are chosen for specific trials.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) offers a lengthy but easy-to-read explanation of clinical trials and what you should consider before participating in one.

The Cleveland Clinic, a longtime provider of specialist care and second opinions, has a second opinion service through its e-Cleveland Clinic site. A second opinion, delivered electronically, costs $565.

Best Doctors, a for-profit group, has compiled a list of 40,000 top doctors around the country as the basis of a consultation service that it offers to employers and health insurance carriers. If your employer or insurer subscribes to this program, its clinicians can review your medical records, confirm diagnoses and recommend specific treatments to your own doctor. (800) 223-5003