1. The Right to Information

Patients have the right to be informed in a clear and appropriate manner about their state of health, medical examinations and treatment options, the consequences and any possible risks involved, as well as the prognosis and financial aspects of the treatment.

The practical situation

Healthcare professionals are under an obligation to volunteer information to patients. They must provide in an objective and complete manner all the information patients require to consent to their treatment in full knowledge of the facts. Patients have the right to ask questions and to ask for explanations; if necessary they can also say that they have not understood information that has been given to them.

Restriction of the right to information

The right to information may be restricted in two situations:

  • Where patients explicitly waive the right to information, for example because they do not want to know whether they have an incurable disease. This naturally does not mean that they forego appropriate treatment and care.
  • In an emergency, patients can be informed later on.

Information is only given to patients. Healthcare professionals are bound to observe professional secrecy towards third parties. If patients are not capable of judgement, their designated representative must be informed; healthcare professionals are not bound to maintain secrecy towards representatives if the situation so requires.

Residential and care home agreements

Individuals not capable of judgement who are being looked after in a residential or care home have the right to a written agreement informing them of the services provided by the facility and their cost. In some cantons, individuals capable of judgement who are living in a home are also entitled to receive a written agreement.

Second opinion

Patients who would like to get a second specialist opinion have the right to consult another healthcare professional of their choice.

Why should I get a second opinion?

Seeking a second opinion is not a vote of no confidence in the person treating you. A second opinion increases the amount of information available to you and enables you to decide whether or not you want to consent to the proposed treatment in full knowledge of all the facts. A second opinion is a particularly good idea if non-urgent surgery or treatment with serious repercussions is suggested to you.
It is advisable to find out in advance whether your health insurance will pay for a second opinion.

Last modification 17.08.2018

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division Health strategies
Section National health policy
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3003 Berne
Switzerland
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