Inward medical tourism

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While there is a long tradition of people travelling to Switzerland for medical treatment, the associated ethical issues have been little studied to date. The topic of medical tourism in Switzerland is to be addressed by two studies supported by the Käthe Zingg-Schwichtenberg Fund (KZS Fund) of the SAMS.

Medical tourism is by no means a new phenomenon; self-funding patients have come to Switzerland from abroad for many years – often to obtain treatment for particularly serious medical conditions. However, the numerous questions and ethical challenges associated with this practice have been little studied to date:

  • To what extent are patients exposing themselves to risks, e.g. excessive financial burdens, or a lack of aftercare in their home country?
  • What ethical challenges arise for the medical care team, e.g. problems in assessing patients prior to/upon admission, unexpected complications, problematic readmissions?
  • What problems exist at the institutional level, e.g. financial incentives and conflicts of interest?


The Central Ethics Committee (CEC) of the SAMS believes that these questions should be explored in more detail. The results of such studies could provide important evidence as to whether there is a need for ethical recommendations to be developed in this area.


The KZS Fund of the SAMS is supporting two projects on medical tourism in Switzerland. They will not only investigate legal and organisational aspects of medical tourism but also consider its economic significance. In addition, the associated ethical questions are to be addressed. The results are expected to be available in the fourth quarter of 2017.


Project 1: Ethical problems of medical tourism in Switzerland


Center for Ethics, University of Zurich

Brauer & Strub / Medizin Ethik Politik

econcept AG / Forschung Beratung Evaluation

MERH Competence Centre, University of Zurich

Project management: Professor Barbara Haering, University of Lausanne


Project 2: Medical tourism in Switzerland: Interdisciplinary exploratory research on ethical, legal, and economic issues

Dr Priya Satalkar, Professor Bernice Elger, Institute for Biomedical Ethics, University of Basel


Project support is being provided by an expert group

PD Dr Eva Bergsträsser, Zurich

Christine Bally, Bern

Professor Urs Brügger, Winterthur

PD Dr Tanja Krones, Zurich

lic. iur. Michelle Salathé, MAE, SAMS, Bern

Dr Erik von Elm, Lausanne




lic. theol., dipl. biol. Sibylle Ackermann
Head Department Ethics
Tel. +41 31 306 92 73