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Ethics Articles

Learn about standards of ethical behavior

Why should we care about ethics? As physical therapists or physical therapist assistants start to assume a more autonomous role in healthcare, ethical judgments are going to play an increasingly important role in the gamut of clinical decision-making. Unethical behavior usually results in a loss of trust among the public.


Gain a better understanding of ethics as it applies to physical therapy

Review the following resources:

  • Model Practice Act

    The Federation’s Model Practice Act for Physical Therapy Fifth Edition recommends that physical therapy practice acts require physical therapists to adhere to the recognized standards of ethics of the physical therapy profession as established by rule.

  • Code of Ethics

     You can view the APTA Code of Ethics and Guide for Professional Conduct by going to the APTA website,


Ethics articles

Read a wide range of articles written by authorities on the subject of ethics and physical therapy. Below are short synopses for each article with links you can click on to read the full article.

  • Ethics Remediation

    People break rules for four reasons - human error, stuff happens, negligence and recklessness. The worst offender is somebody who intentionally violates a rule or social/ethical standards within the licensing act. Ethics remediation is a complex subject and developing an effective and fair program to deal with ethics violations may seem – and probably is - difficult. All sorts of issues arise.

  • Basic Concepts of a Just Culture

    Just culture is the process, the concept, of attempting to manage human fallibility through system design and behavioral choices that we have within our organization.

  • A Failure to Protect the Public

    Jessica Santillan was a 17-year old girl from Mexico whose family reportedly paid a smuggler to bring her to the United States for a life-saving heart and lung transplant. The young woman died after organs with the wrong blood type were implanted by doctors at Duke University Medical Center. I kept wondering how something like that could happen at a prestigious hospital with some of the most highly skilled physicians in the country. It was also a hospital that trains doctors.

  • Crime Doesn't Pay

    A license to engage in the practice of a regulated profession is a privilege available only to those who have met specific statutory standards. In North Carolina, the practice of physical therapy has been regulated since 1951. The Physical Therapy Practice Act specifies the qualifications that applicants for licensure must possess, and the Board spends a considerable amount of time reviewing applications for compliance with those requirements.

  • Developing a Code of Ethics in Ohio

    Ethics codes establish an ideological framework with which all professionals in that profession can agree at some level. It is a framework for professionals to resolve ethical dilemmas, and it provides a distinctive language that gives a professional a unique sense of belonging.

  • Ethics as an Obligation

    We have an obligation as regulators to make sure that the practitioners that we license are trusted by the people that they treat. Too often, the remediation that we choose to use is a Band-Aid for what we have perceived to be the problem when the problem is actually much larger and much more pervasive.

  • Ethical Decision Making to Avoid Disciplinary Action

    This article discusses the issues involved in ethical decision making for healthcare providers and gives a model that can be used by healthcare providers in making tough decisions.

  • Examples of Remediation: When It Works and When it Doesn't Work

    Ethics remediation is a huge challenge. We know something was done wrong, but the ethical dimensions of the professional character reflected by that violation can be very subtle, very pervasive. It’s very hard to identify for a regulatory board. It would be relatively simple to discuss the statutes that individuals have violated. What we need to examine, though, are the underpinning of ethical judgment within any of these cases.

  • Ten Easy Ways to Lose Your License

    This article discusses a presentation that the Massachusetts Board of Allied Health Professionals gives to licensees about the ten top reasons PTs and PTAs have been disciplined in that state.