In the past years the number of malpractice suits due to lack of patient information has increased. Because there have been no generally accepted guidelines for preoperative patient information, the Swiss Society of Surgery has decided to work out an informative brochure tailored to the needs of patients. It takes into account that the need to know beforehand is increasing rapidly. In collaboration with the judiciary service of the Swiss Medical Federation all the items and points of legal relevance have been compiled to establish an informative brochure. Based on this protocol, patients in surgical departments of 6 Swiss community hospitals were asked before discharge to qualify the preoperative information offered to them. 2660 questionnaires were evaluated. The majority of patients considered the information regarding their diagnosis, the complications, risks, treatment and postoperative care, the sketches describing the operation and the overall degree of information as good or very good. Almost 60% of all patients stated that no alternative treatment had been discussed with them other than the planned procedure. In most of these patients operative procedures were chosen and carried out for which there were few or no other acceptable options. 2/3 of the patients asked for immediate preoperative written information, especially if they had malignant disease. Barely 4% of the patients were not reassured by the information provided to them. The fact that 2/3 of all patients re-read the informative protocol before the operation underlines how important it is to hand out a copy of the protocol to satisfy the informative needs of the patients. To our surprise the vast majority of patients uttered little concern about giving their signature to forms that were presented to them. Only 2% of the patients felt that giving a signature would cause them grave reservations. The informative protocol devised by the Swiss Society of Surgery is well adapted to the informative needs of the patients and allows for a structured conversation. It facilitates documentation and offers valid legal proof for the physician that he/she has provided adequate information.