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Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics

The Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics was developed by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to document the core values and ethical principles that govern occupational therapy practice in the United States. This document is maintained by AOTA and updated periodically. The Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics is proprietary information and the full document can be viewed through the AOTA website. This chart provides main points and examples from the Code of Ethics for study purposes.

Core Values

Value Description Example
Altruism Demonstrating concern for the welfare of others. An OT asks her patient how the patient is feeling during the OT session.
Equality Treating all people impartially and free of bias. An OT clinic accepts all patients who have a physician’s referral for OT regardless of race, gender, ethnic background, lifestyle, etc.
Freedom Patients are given personal choices based on their values and desires. An OTA agrees to set up a home exercise program for an outpatient who prefers to complete her therapy at home as she has young children.
Justice Diverse communities are inclusive, structured, and organized so that all members can function, flourish, and live satisfactory lives. An OT facilitates a multiple sclerosis support group, making sure each member has time to tell his or her story without monopolizing more group time than the other members.
Dignity Treat all patients with respect at all times. An OTA escorts a woman with Alzheimer’s disease back to her room, patiently answering the same question 5 times and addressing the patient by her name.
Truth Provide accurate information in oral, written and electronic forms in all situations. While writing an initial evaluation report, an OT documents that she did not test cognitive skills, rather than writing that cognition appeared normal.
Prudence Use clinical and ethical reasoning skills, sound judgement, and reflection to make decisions in professional and volunteer roles. An OTA determines that a patient is not yet ready to complete ADL tasks without supervision after observing the patient retrieving ADL items in an unsafe manner.

Principles and Standards of Conduct

Principle Description Examples
1. Beneficence Occupational therapy practitioners shall demonstrate concern for occupational therapy patients. -Provide appropriate evaluation and treatment to patients.
-Ensure treatment is provided in a timely manner.
-Revise treatment goals when necessary.
-Use therapeutic treatment approaches that are evidence based and consistent with occupational therapy practice.
-Provide treatment that is consistent with the therapist’s education, background and knowledge.
-Demonstrate service competency to ensure therapeutic standards are met and gain knowledge of evidence-based approaches through continuing education, review of research, and other methods.
-Terminate occupational therapy services when a patient’s goals are met or when insurance coverage is no longer available.
-Refer patients to other practitioners when the patient’s symptoms and functional limitations warrants.
2. Nonmaleficence Occupational therapy practitioners shall take reasonable precautions to avoid inflicting harm on others or their property. Treatment goals should outweigh any risks. -Consider the benefit of the treatment technique vs. any discomfort the patient experiences. A patient may complain that passive range of motion is uncomfortable, but the treatment is necessary to prevent contractures.
-Never inflict harm to a patient during treatment.
-Never abandon a patient during treatment.
-Therapists should minimize their own personal problems while providing treatment to not burden patients.
-Insure that influences that might compromise a treatment session are eliminated, such as removing another patient who is behaving inappropriately from the therapy clinic.
-Set boundaries with patients and avoid personal or sexual relationships.
-Never exploit patients for personal gain.

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