Open Disclosure in Switzerland

Open disclosure is the prompt, compassionate, and honest communication with patients and families following an incident that has resulted in harm. While the open disclosure process can vary from country to country, it typically includes: an acknowledgment; an expression of regret or an apology; an investigation into the incident; providing a factual explanation of what happened; and explaining the steps being taken to manage the incident and prevent recurrence.

The issue of open disclosure has received growing attention from policy makers, legal experts and academic researchers, predominantly in a number of English speaking countries and a rich literature on open disclosure has emerged. While implementing open disclosure in practice is still an on-going process, open disclosure now forms an integral part of health policy in these countries, with various measures having been put in place to encourage open disclosure and to mitigate some of the barriers to such open communication.

In contrast, the literature regarding open disclosure in non-English speaking countries, including Switzerland, is very limited and there is currently no empirical data relating to actual practice or practitioners’attitudes and views in most countries in continental Europe.

This project seeks to address this situation, with a special focus on Switzerland. It will examine the current approach to regulating open disclosure in Switzerland via a literature review and a quantitative survey of hospitals.

It will also explore practitioners’ attitudes and views regarding the communication of errors to patients and the perceived barriers to such communication in Switzerland via qualitative interviews. In light of this, it will also consider measures that could potentially be implemented to further promote open disclosure in Switzerland.

Who is who


Stuart Roger McLennan

Institute for
Biomedical Ethics

Universität Basel
Bernoullistrasse 28
CH-4056 Basel

Tel. +41 (0)61 267 09 63


Prof. Dr Bernice Elger (first supervisor), Institute for Bio- and Medical Ethics, University of Basel

Prof. Daniel Scheidegger (co-supervisor), Professor and Chairman, Department of Anaesthesia, University Hospital of Basel

Prof. Mark Pieth (external referee), Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology at the University of Basel and Chairman of the Board of the Institute on Governance