Medical liability

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Interprofessional collaboration in the healthcare system is becoming increasingly important. What does this mean with regard to responsibility for the patient? How far does medical liability extend? A legal opinion commissioned by the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS) answers these questions.

Advances in medicine, new job profiles and finance models, cost pressures – these factors influence the collaboration of healthcare specialists. What do specific work situations look like? How are processes, responsibilities and duties regulated? The «Collaboration of specialists in the health-care system» charter published in 2014 is dedicated to these topics.


In the official debate on the charter, questions regarding medical liability were clearly important: How far does it extend? How is liability for the actions of third parties regulated? A legal opinion commissioned by the SAMS from the Institute for Health Law (IDS) at the University of Neuchâtel answers these questions.


«Responsibility» and «liability»

The document explains the difference between «responsibility» and «liability». «To be responsible» means to hold a position which requires decisions to be made. This view of «responsibility» is a central component of medical professionalism. Decisive in the legal context is, however, the term «liability»; «to be liable» means to vouch or be legally responsible for your own actions. The legal opinion comes to the conclusion that in principle each healthcare specialist assumes liability for their area of activity.


The level of professional independence is decisive

Liability for the actions of third parties is dependent on the status of this third party. The legal opinion differentiates between three stages: assistants, deputies and independent representatives. The more independent the third party, the more comprehensive the liability they assume. The SAMS charter has no effect on the applicable legal situation, nor does the medical interpretation of «responsibility». Decisive is the position of the healthcare professional as assistant, deputy or independent representative.


The document «Legal opinion: The medical liability in the context of interprofessional collaboration» and its summary are available in German.



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