ASHA’s Compass: The Revised Code of Ethics Professional ethics are among my personal top three priorities. David Resnick, my mentor, wrote a book on professional ethics 15 years ago and his integrity, vision, and philosophy inspired my interest in professional ethics and motivated me to serve as a member of the ASHA Board of Ethics (BOE). I ... From the President
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From the President  |   September 01, 2011
ASHA’s Compass: The Revised Code of Ethics
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Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / From the President
From the President   |   September 01, 2011
ASHA’s Compass: The Revised Code of Ethics
The ASHA Leader, September 2011, Vol. 16, 8. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.16092011.8
The ASHA Leader, September 2011, Vol. 16, 8. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.16092011.8
Professional ethics are among my personal top three priorities. David Resnick, my mentor, wrote a book on professional ethics 15 years ago and his integrity, vision, and philosophy inspired my interest in professional ethics and motivated me to serve as a member of the ASHA Board of Ethics (BOE). I also had the honor of chairing the BOE during ASHA Fellow David Denton’s tenure as director of ethics par excellence. ASHA’s new director of ethics, Heather Bupp, will carry on David’s legacy of education, coaching, and administration pertaining to our revised Code of Ethics (March 2010).
In today’s environment of health and education reform, with so many challenges and opportunities facing us, the stakes have never been higher for our clients, our members, our association, and the communities we serve. Hence, having an ethical foundation for our two professions—ASHA’s Code of Ethics, our discipline’s compass—is more important than ever. As Albert Schweitzer noted in Out of My Life and Thought (1949), “Truth has no special time of its own. Its hour is now—always!” Many professions—banking, real estate, and politics—failed to listen to the moment of truth and are stuck in a quagmire of ill repute; such unethical behavior has resulted in a staggering loss of dollars, reputation, and trust.
Our Code of Ethics is more than a guide. It is a living document reflecting four principles and 44 rules that govern our decision-making when we face a conflict. ASHA’s ethics staff receives more than 3,000 inquiries per year; the largest number deal with employer demands. How many of us have faced a job-related demand that failed the “smell test?” Other common themes of ethical inquiries deal with the use of support personnel, cultural competence, reimbursement for services, and supervision of clinical fellows.
The vitality and robustness of our code depend on our 145,000 members, who act as ethical watchdogs and report suspected violations to the BOE, which is composed of 12 ASHA volunteers. More important than the surveillance requirement, however, is our requirement to “do the right thing” by facing ethical challenges with fortitude. When you feel confronted with an ethical challenge, consult our compass to resolve the question. Besides the code, ASHA has many other resources at ASHA’s ethics webpage. “Issues in Ethics,” for example, provides guidance on a variety of topics; you also will find ASHA Leader articles on ethics that inform and inspire. If you need more assistance, contact ASHA’s director of ethics for individual, confidential assistance.
I recall several years ago, a wealthy client handed me a check for $10,000 on his final day of treatment to thank me for helping his post-stroke recovery. I pulled back and stated, “Joe, I’m the compliance officer. I can’t accept that.” As a successful businessman, he was somewhat taken aback but agreed to donate the sum to the hospital. Do the right thing!
I am convinced that making the ASHA Code of Ethics a part of your clinical, administrative, and research mindset is not only the best way to prepare for health care and education reform, but also the best business decision. Doing the right thing for the right reason will help us create practices that are productive and sustainable.
Upholding strong ethical conduct also will help us withstand increased scrutiny—the result of health care and education reform—and comply with the need to be increasingly transparent in our operations. We should be acutely aware of the government’s prosecution of health care fraud and abuse. Earlier this year, for example, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder publicized a Justice Department effort that cracked a provider ring responsible for $250 million in false claims. Unfortunately, speech-language pathologists were included with other health care professionals in that roundup.
The assurance we can provide our clients and our communities that we are doing the right things for the right reasons is the real benefit of a dynamic ASHA Code of Ethics. I close with Mark Twain’s insightful observation: “Always do the right thing. That will satisfy most people and astonish the rest.”
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September 2011
Volume 16, Issue 9