FOR PHYSIOTHERAPISTS

Ethics and Advertising

CPM’s Ethics Committee was recently asked by Council to put together some educational material to reinforce the ethics behind CPM’s Practice Direction for Advertising (4.14). Council is concerned about the number of therapists/clinics that are not following the Advertising policy. The Ethics Committee used an Ethical Decision-Making Framework developed by the Manitoba Provincial Health Ethics Network (available at http://www.mb-phen.ca/er-frameworks.html) to discuss and frame different values related to advertising.

CPM’s policy states that advertising and promotional activities must be truthful, tasteful and professional. We cannot use statements that imply superiority of services, equipment or techniques. Testimonials and endorsements are not allowed because they are difficult to monitor and may not be truthful. The policy exists to uphold the ethical principles of non-maleficence, autonomy, justice and beneficence.

Non-maleficence (actions are ethically right if they avoid producing bad consequences) – As professionals, we need to ensure we don’t mislead the public with our advertising.

Autonomy (actions are ethically right if they comply with a person’s self-determined choice) – Clients need to be able to make informed decisions based on solid facts.

Justice (actions are ethically right if people in similar situations are treated equally) – All therapists need to follow the rules regarding appropriate promotional activities to ensure that opportunities are fair.

Beneficence (actions are ethically right if they produce good outcomes) – Clients can make decisions about physiotherapy services based on facts to ensure they receive optimum care.

Here are some examples of inappropriate and appropriate promotional activities:

 

Outside Policy Parameters: 
“I specialize (or I am a specialist) in treating people with stroke…”
This implies superiority and potentially misleads the public.

Within our Advertising Policy:
“I have a particular interest in treating people with stroke….”
This is factual and not a comparative statement.

 

Outside Policy Parameters:
“I am one of the most sought-after therapists for treating people with ….”
This implies superiority, potentially misleads the public, and does not promote the profession as a whole)

Within our Advertising Policy:
“I have a particular interest in treating people with ….”
This is factual and not a comparative statement)

 

Outside Policy Parameters:
“Unlike most therapists, we deliver one-on-one treatments and always offer 60 min assessments….”
This is comparative, implies superiority, and could mislead the public)

Within our Advertising Policy:
“We deliver one-on-one treatments and always offer 60 min assessments” 
This is factual and not a comparative statement.

 

Outside Policy Parameters:
“Come to our clinic’s grand opening and enter to win a 55 inch television….”
Giveaways are considered unethical.

Within our Advertising Policy:
“Come to our grand opening and learn about what physiotherapy can do for you”
This promotes the profession.

 

Formats and content of advertising have evolved significantly in recent years. In many formats, the parameters of our advertising policy are clear, but in others, determining what lies within the policy can be challenging (https://www.manitobaphysio.com/wp-content/uploads/4.14-Advertising-1-1.pdf). We have an obligation to be mindful of providing honest and non-competitive information to the public without slandering others. If in doubt about a proposed advertisement, contact CPM to seek guidance as you navigate this potentially challenging aspect of the practice of physiotherapy.

Click on the link below if you are interested in seeing the actions the BC Naturopath College is taking to deal with misleading advertising in their profession: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/27-bc-naturopaths-college-advertising-crackdown-1.4987191