Professional secrecy commission (CSProf)

Art. 12 of the Geneva Health Act of April 7, 2006 (LS) establishes a higher authority for the lifting of professional secrecy, the Professional Secrecy Commission, (hereinafter CSProf), responsible for ruling on requests for lifting professional secrecy in accordance with art. 321 ch. 2 of the Swiss Penal Code CPS and art. 86 LS.

The CSProf is administratively attached to the Department of Security, Employment and Health. It exercises the powers conferred by the LS in complete independence. Decisions made by the CSProf may be appealed to the Administrative Chamber of the Court of Justice within 10 days of their notification.


The Commission is composed of three members, including a doctor from the University Institute of Legal Medicine (hereinafter IUML) in Geneva, who chairs the Commission, a representative of the Directorate General of Health (hereinafter DGS) and a representative of the organizations statutorily dedicated to the defence of patients' rights. The members are appointed by the State Council, which also designates a substitute for each member.

The composition of the CSProf is as follows:

IUML Physicians

  • Chair: Mrs. Sandra Burkhardt
  • Alternate Chair : Mr. Romano La Harpe

Representatives of the DGS

  • member: Mrs Corina Wieland Karsegard
  • alternate member: Mrs Laurence Dick Aune

Représentantes d'organisations se vouant statutairement à la défense des droits des patients :

  • member: Mrs Uzma Khamis Vannini
  • alternate member: Mrs Ghislaine de Marsano

The clerk's office is staffed by a lawyer (IUML); the secretariat is provided by Mrs. Sarah Rufener (IUML).

Referral to the Commission

In principle, it is the patient or his authorized representative who lifts the professional secrecy regarding the data concerning him. There are five situations that may justify referral to the CSProf::

  1. the patient is deceased 
  2. the patient is incapable of discernment and does not have an authorized representative 
  3. the patient, capable of discernment, refuses the lifting of professional secrecy 
  4. the patient cannot be contacted 
  5. there is a potential conflict of interest between the patient and his or her representative.

Activity of the Professional Secrecy Commission

In recent years, the CSProf has received over 450 requests per year. Requests for the lifting of professional secrecy come mainly from doctors attached to the University Hospitals of Geneva, and more particularly to the Departments of Rehabilitation and Geriatrics and of Psychiatry.

In the majority of cases, requests for the lifting of professional secrecy are made in order to be able to transmit information to a judicial authority (Court for the Protection of Adults and Children, Public Prosecutor's Office) or to the relatives of a deceased patient.

The patients concerned by the requests to lift professional secrecy are incapable of discernment in almost half of the cases and deceased in about a third of the requests.