The future of medicine in Switzerland (2001–2011)

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During the first decade of the 21st century, «The future of medicine in Switzerland» was one of the flagship projects of the SAMS. Reflections undertaken in various settings led to a number of publications and to the organisation of several events. One of the milestones of the project was the expert report entitled «Aims and tasks of medicine at the beginning of the 21st century».

In virtually every culture and historical period, the primary task of medicine has consisted in caring for the sick, treating injuries and dealing with suffering by means of ritual. From this perspective, medical science is a recent invention, which became established during the first half of the 20th century, but which only fundamentally altered therapeutic options from the 1950s onwards. These developments ultimately called into question medical practice as a whole, necessitating the reformulation of its definitions, overall framework and aims. It was against this background that «The future of medicine in Switzerland» project was launched by the SAMS.


In the first phase of the project, dozens of experts in the fields of medicine, economics, ethics and health policy expressed their views on the current state of medicine, identifying problem areas and outlining possible solutions. At the same time, the SAMS requested the research institute GfS Bern to conduct a survey on «What does the public expect from medicine?».


Aims and tasks of medicine at the beginning of the 21st century

In the second phase of the project, a group of experts representing the SAMS, the Swiss Medical Association (FMH) and the five Faculties of Medicine published a report entitled «Aims and tasks of medicine at the beginning of the 21st century» (2004). This document provides an overview of the tensions to which modern medicine is subject, discussing the public’s expectations and attitudes to technology, the relationship between research and clinical medicine, economic imperatives, the demand for quality, and the distribution of resources. It then focuses on the values and goals of medicine:


  1. Preserving physical integrity and promoting and (as far as possible) restoring physical, mental and social functioning
  2. Promoting physical and mental growth and lifelong development
  3. Relieving physical and mental pain and suffering
  4. Treating and caring for persons who are ill, taking those close to them into account
  5. Saving and preserving life
  6. Preserving health, including the prevention of accidents and disease, and optimising living and environmental conditions


The report concludes with a discussion of the medical profession’s future responsibilities.


  • Position paper: Aims and tasks of medicine at the beginning of the 21st century (2004), PDF 2 MB in German or in French



Other publications relating to «The future of medicine in Switzerland»

During the implementation phase, three key areas identified in the 2004 report were explored in more detail in symposiums and position papers:


  • The future profiles of medical and nursing professionals (2011) PDF, 347 KB  in German and French
  • Basic and postgraduate training in patient safety and error management (2007) PDF, 408 KB in German and French
  • Rationing within the Swiss health system: analysis and recommendations (2007) PDF, 1 MB  in German and French




lic. phil. Valérie Clerc
Secretary General
Tel. +41 31 306 92 71