There are six core principles and standards of conduct established by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. These points are enforceable for professionals working in the field. These principles are useful in evaluating times when a licensed professional has been accused of inappropriate actions and are intended to guide therapists toward ethical choices. When unusual circumstances and decisions arise, it is helpful to have a set of idealized principles as a guide.
Those who provide occupational therapy need to have concern for the well-being of their patients. “Beneficence” is a fancy word used mainly when discussing ethics, and it calls into question whether participants benefit from a particular study or procedure. Custom treatments can be designed for patients whenever possible, but it is also important for a therapist to periodically evaluate whether a particular course of treatment is benefiting the recipient.
Maleficence is an evil or harmful act, the opposite of beneficence. Nonmaleficence, logically, is refraining from causing harm. One of the most well-known parts of the Hippocratic oath sworn by physicians, nonmaleficence is a reminder to be careful when harm is possible. Especially when helping people recover from past injuries, a poor choice of exercise activities can exacerbate the problem. While there are certainly more than a few sadistic individuals in the world, this principle is mostly targeted at professionals who may unintentionally cause harm.
Dealing with an individual’s right to independence, the principle of autonomy ensures that each patient has a right to privacy, self-determination, consent, and confidentiality. While extremely personal issues might not often be discussed during occupational therapy, it is still important to respect a patient’s privacy.
Objectivity and fairness are hallmarks of justice as it pertains to this professional field. People deserve to be treated equally, regardless of their race, beliefs, orientation, or financial means. Those without the necessary finances may be directed to charitable organizations and other alternatives for appropriate treatment.
It’s critical that professionals maintain a level of respectability and candor that reflects positively on others in the field. Misinformation and deception can be harmful to patients and the standing of other therapists. Veracity is particularly valuable when discussing certifications, qualifications, and experience. Plagiarism and failing to give proper credit is also a violation of this ethical standard.
Rooted in the Latin word “fidelis,” fidelity refers to loyalty and honoring one’s commitments. Personnel who work in an occupational therapy office must have loyalty to peers, coworkers, patients, and the larger community of fellow therapists. One must be ready to identify and report conflicts of interest and mistakes. Like in any workplace, colleagues must be treated with respect and dignity.
Published principles and standards of conduct provide a safeguard for those who provide these kinds of therapeutic services. These rules make it clear when someone has gone out of bounds, and they serve as a reminder during times of difficult decisions.