Ethics for Physiotherapists

What is Ethics?

Ethics involves consideration of value systems and morals in deciding what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes it is hard to know what “the right thing is” when competing values exist. When figuring out what to do in difficult situations, it is important to be aware of your own values as well as the values of other stakeholders (e.g.., your client, your profession, your clinic etc). What is important to one may not be as important to another. We all carry biases and assumptions that influence how we make decisions. Ethical dilemmas result when conflicts exist between and among ethical principles (e.g., respecting autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, health equity, fairness, etc.).

However, not all conflicts represent ethical dilemmas. Sometimes issues can be resolved by following governing policies and procedures (even if we don’t necessarily agree with them). An example of this would be…What do you do if the daughter of an older gentleman you are treating calls you to see if her father is still at your clinic? While this might seem to be an ethical dilemma, PHIA principles guard against giving out information about your client without his consent. However, even if we can find guidance in laws and policies this doesn’t necessarily change the fact that we feel moral distress in dealing with these issues.


Role of CPM’s Ethics Committee 2018-2019

Our committee currently consists of six members who have a special interest in ethics. We work in private practice, hospital, community and academic settings delivering care to adult and pediatric clients within and outside of Winnipeg.

The mandate of our committee is to:

  1. identify opportunities for promoting ethical practice in the physiotherapy community (college members) which reflects values of our Code of Ethics.
  2. provide a forum to encourage reflection and learning about the ethical dimensions of physiotherapy practice.
  3. discuss and facilitate the application of an ethical lens to the development, revision and implementation of policies, procedures and standards of practice.

It is not our role to judge issues that arise, but rather to provide resources to help guide clinicians to make their own decisions while keeping ethics in mind. Our committee welcomes ideas of ethical issues from the membership and can be reached at