Ari Ginsberg, PT, DPT, MSIOP
An Introduction to Moral Psychology
Morality is typically considered a branch of philosophy, however, there are psychologists who have studied the foundations of morality and ethics. They are interested in the question of where morality originated from, and how humans decide what is right or wrong. An excellent book about moral psychology is The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
There are 3 conclusions Haidt has made on the topic of moral psychology based on years of research.
First, moral decisions are made by intuition first and reasoning second. That means that we sense that something is right or wrong, then we justify our intuition using logic. Second, political conservatives and liberals share in many moral values. Third, morality binds and blinds us. This means that morality connects us to others who have the same moral background. On the other hand, it prevents us from seeing the morality of others. These 3 conclusions are crucial to studying ethics.
3 Conclusions from The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
- Intuition first, reasoning second
- Shared moral values between liberals and conservatives
- Morality Blinds and Binds
Ethics for Physical and Occupational Therapists
In Let’s Get Ethical: Ethical Boundaries for PTs/OTs, I utilize the first conclusion made by Haidt to resolve ethical dilemmas for physical and occupational therapists. The APTA and AOTA Code of Ethics provide basic ethical principles for physical and occupational therapists. However, they don’t resolve common ethical situations that emerge in professional practice. As a result, how do physical and occupational therapists decide what is right or wrong in ethical dilemmas? Intuition is really the key to making ethical decisions. Ethics for physical and occupational therapists is a critical topic, as situations come about daily.
Defining Ethical Dilemmas in Physical and Occupational Therapy!
What is an ethical dilemma in physical and occupational therapy?
Sometimes, principles in the APTA and AOTA Code of Ethics aren’t clear based on their wording. An ethical dilemma arises when a physical or occupational therapist must decide to act either based on the technical reading of the principle or the conceptual basis of the principle. Other times, the principle is clearer, but we stretch the boundaries of that principle. For example, we all know that speeding is wrong, however, most of us justify speeding. Some of us intuit that speeding 5 mph is ok, others intuit that 10 mph is ok. We then reason it out after the fact that I am a safe driver, therefore I can speed. Another type of ethical dilemma occurs when 2 ethical principles collide. How do you decide which principle takes precedent? Intuition is the answer. For instance, which principle takes precedent, not lying on a note or putting your patient’s best interest first?
What is an Ethical Dilemma?
- Ambiguity from the APTA and AOTA Codes of Ethics
- Stretching the boundaries
- Collision of 2 ethical principles
Seeing Multiple Ethical Perspectives
If intuition is the basis for ethical decisions, then multiple perspectives that are not clearly right or wrong can be seen. Ethics for physical and occupational therapists is based on different intuitive feelings of clinicians. Of course, there are many clear situations where you are adhering or violating ethical principles. There are also numerous situations that are ethically grey. There is tremendous value in seeing all the ethical viewpoints for many reasons. It allows physical therapists to reassess their own intuition and be less judgmental when they observe what they consider unethical behavior from other physical and occupational therapists.
Facilitating Debate in Ethics for Physical and Occupational Therapists
In Let’s Get Ethical: Ethical Boundaries for PTs/OTs: I facilitate debate amongst audience members as to how to resolve ethical scenarios for physical and occupational therapists. I recognize that my intuition may be different than others, so I don’t impose my ethical judgments on audience members. I want the audience members to see how their colleagues respond to ethical dilemmas. I am merely a facilitator of ethical debate amongst physical and occupational therapists. If you are interested in fulfilling your PT ethics CEU requirement in NJ or other states and you want to explore your ethical intuition, check out Let’s Get Ethical: Ethical Boundaries for PTs/OTs. I also give a course that is limited to the AOTA Code of Ethics and is approved for CEUs for occupational therapists by the AOTA. I look forward to you participation in the webinar. You shouldn’t settle for a boring ethics course. Ethics can be fun and engaging!