In the most recent 1-Minute Update poll, we asked occupational therapy practitioners to tell us what they would do if their employer asked them to do something unethical. Nearly half of respondents said they would speak up immediately to their employer and a quarter of respondents said they would read AOTA’s Code of Ethics and Ethics Standards (2010) for guidance. 

 

The topic of ethics is an interesting one because unlike the law, there isn’t always a clear right and wrong answer with a specific law prohibiting or permitting a certain action. When analyzing and resolving ethical dilemmas it takes time to consider the facts and make a decision that is defendable and in line with ethical and professional standards. We are impressed that so many occupational therapy practitioners would speak up about unethical conduct to their employers. It’s important to have a justification as to why you think something is unethical when you confront your employer. Often, this takes time and effort to think through the issue and requires using ethics resources to support your position.

AOTA has many ethics resources that specifically address these issues. The first place to start is AOTA’s Code of Ethics and Ethics Standards that addresses the most prevalent ethical concerns for occupational therapy and is a guide for professional behavior. You can also refer to AOTA advisory opinions, which go into more depth about specific issues such as social networking, patient abandonment, and payment for services. AOTA Press recently published the Reference Guide to the Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics and Ethics Standards that can assist you in understanding and resolving ethical issues throughout your career. The book is available at the AOTA store (members get a discount).  

After reviewing these resources, it may be useful to discuss the issue with a colleague who is knowledgeable about ethics. They may provide a perspective that you have not considered and that will help in fully analyzing the situation. You could also check to see if your facility has an ethics committee. AOTA members can contact the AOTA ethics department (ethics@aota.org) for a personalized and professional consultation.

Finally, if after considering all the facts, you decide that an individual colleague is acting in a manner that violates principles of the Code and Ethics Standards, you can speak up by filing an ethics complaint with AOTA. If the individual is an occupational therapy practitioner, you can report a complaint to your state’s licensing board, AOTA, and NBCOT. To report a facility, you can contact the state agency that licenses the facility (here is a state by state list). 

It is important that if you suspect Medicare fraud you contact the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Contact the OIG National Hotline at 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477). 

Do you have any strategies to share for handling ethical issues? Tell us in the comments.