Ethics In Physical Therapy Essay

This essay has a total of 1754 words and 9 pages.

Ethics In Physical Therapy

Ethics in Physical Therapy

One of the most rapidly growing occupations in the United States today is Physical
Therapy. The United States Department of Labor has projected 23,000 unfilled physical
therapist positions in the year 2000 and a lack of qualified physical therapists to fill
them ( While Physical Therapy grows rapidly, questions of ethics in this
field have also grown in large quantities. Physical therapy is the treatment of disease
through physical means, including light, heat, sound waves, electricity, magnetic fields,
and exercise ( This means that therapists use many different forms to treat
people, and treating people can be a large challenge because of all the different
possibilities that could occur with the different treatments. Physical Therapy is a very
rewarding and lucrative profession if the problems that come along with the job are dealt
with in a capable manner.

The main problem with Physical Therapy is the problem of the ethics of the profession.
There are many ethical conflicts such as how to charge based on your services, and what
types of services to give to each individual patient. To guide physical therapists in
their decision making the American Physical Therapy Association came up with a code of
ethics for it's members to set their standards to work by. Their members are required to
work by this code and are also required to maintain ethical practices. The first principle
in their code is to respect the rights and dignity of all individuals. This includes all
patients, employees, and co-workers. The second principle is to comply with all of the
laws and regulations governing the practice of physical therapy. Physical therapists learn
these laws in school before becoming a therapist. The third principle is that they must
accept responsibility for their actions and exercise sound judgment. Every therapist must
own up to their mistakes, and take responsibility for their patients. The fourth principle
is that they must maintain and promote high standards for physical therapy practice,
education, and research. No therapist should ever compromise his or her beliefs for any
reason. The fifth principle is that they must seek remuneration for their services that is
deserved and reasonable. This means that they should be paid for the work that they do,
but that the pay should be a reasonable amount. The sixth principle is that they must
provide accurate information to the consumer about the profession and about those services
they provide. This includes a thorough explanation of what they will be doing while
servicing a patient. The seventh principle is that they must accept the responsibility to
protect the public and the profession from unethical, incompetent, or illegal acts. This
means that if they are aware of any unethical acts, they are obligated to report them. The
eight and final principle is that they must participate in efforts to address the health
needs of the public (Code of Ethics).

These principles have been addresses, but there are still many problems in the system. To
assess some of the problems that therapists feel are important, many surveys are
conducted. One survey by the United Kingdom National Health Service wanted to compare
ethical contexts and themes, so they sent a structured questionnaire to many different
physical therapy groups around the country. The therapists filled out the questionnaires
and the results found that the most common ethical problems among therapists in the United
Kingdom were dangerous behaviors in patients and unprofessional staff behavior. Their
second biggest concern was resource limitations and treatment effectiveness. These
findings suggested that educators of future physical therapists need to make students
aware of work settings and the interdisciplinary nature of employment as well as
principles held by individual therapists (Barnitt).

The American Physical Therapy Association also conducted a study to identify current
ethical issues and also issues that may be faced in the future by therapists. They used a
technique called the Delphi technique, where a panel of experts was selected and the
experts responded to questionnaires stating their concerns with ethics. The experts
narrowed their concerns down to three categories: patient rights and welfare, professional
issues, and business factors. The experts chose six patient rights and welfare issues,
five professional issues, and five relating to business factors to be the most important.

The first issues addressed, the patients' rights and welfare issues, were the primary
concern of the panel of experts. The issues at hand focused on interactions,
confidentiality, sexuality, and consensual issues between doctors and patients. Any
interaction between a doctor and patient should be understood and clear. Sexual activities
between doctor and patient should be prohibited, and all interactions should be ensured as

The second issues faced were professional ones. These issues dealt primarily with policies
and relations between health professionals. Some issues listed in this category were
maintaining clinical competence, supervising personnel, taking care of the environment,
and reporting any misconduct of others. Therapists should be competent in their work,
their personnel should be supervised at all times, their environment should be sanitary
and clean, and they should feel obligated to report and wrong doing of their peers.

The third and final category discussed was business and economics. The issues outlined in
this category included appropriate fees, advertising, endorsement of equipment, exploitive
business relationships, and billing fraud. Physical therapists are expected to charge
appropriate fees for their services, they are expected to advertise fairly and truthfully,
they should endorse equipment without exploiting themselves or others, and they should
bill fairly and justly for their services (Triezenberg and Purtilo).

A few of the future ethical problems they outlined are the over-utilization of services,
the protection of the patient's rights, the justification of the appropriate fees for the
services rendered, the ethical guidelines for the use of human subjects in research, and
responsibilities of physical therapists. The over-utilization of services would be using
the service too much. The protection of the patient's rights includes privacy issues. The
justification of the appropriate fees for the services rendered would be proper billing.
The ethical guidelines for the use of human subjects in research includes making sure the
Continues for 5 more pages >>