Today’s post is the first part in a series we are running on ethical practice according to the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).  The post was written by Dana Katz, SAISI board member holding the ethics portfolio. Please remember that you are welcome to send any ethics queries through to the SAISI office, and Dana will direct you accordingly.

The HPCSA Booklets provide ethical guidelines for HPCSA registered health care professionals, to ensure best practice. These guidelines form a fundamental part of the standards of professional conduct to which a practitioner should adhere.

So, why are these guidelines so important and why should we adhere to them?

Quite simply, should a complaint of professional misconduct be laid against a practitioner, these are the guidelines against which the complaint will be evaluated. It thus rests with each and every one of us, to ensure that we are familiar with, and practicing in line with, the guidelines in these booklets.

Failure by a practitioner to comply with any conduct determined by the rules in these booklets will be viewed as an act or omission in respect of which the board concerned, i.e. The OT Board, may take disciplinary action.

It is noted that the conduct determined by these rules is not a complete list of conduct and the board concerned may therefore inquire into and deal with any complaint of unprofessional conduct which may be brought forward. In this case, the rules and guidelines in the booklets will be used to guide ethical decision making.

Each booklet begins with a beautiful passage that describes what it means to be a professional health care practitioner.

“The Spirit of Professional Guidelines”

Practice as a health care professional is based upon a relationship of mutual trust between patients and healthcare practitioners. The term “profession” means “a dedication, promise or commitment publicly made” Pellegrino, ED. Medical professionalism: Can it, should it survive? J Am Board Fam Pract 2000; 13(2):147-149 (quotation on p. 148).

To be a good health care practitioner, requires a lifelong commitment to sound professional and ethical practices and an overriding dedication to the interests of one’s fellow human beings and society. In essence, the practice of healthcare professions is a moral enterprise.”

The ethical guidelines stated in the booklets are proposed to guide and direct the practice of all health care practitioners.

There are 17 Booklets available to guide practice, but not all of them are directly relevant to Paediatric OT practice, for example Booklet 15: Research, development and the use of the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Who would have thought there would be anything ethical around that topic? It could be a rather interesting read though!!

On a more pertinent note though, the following booklets hold vital information that all paediatric OT practitioners should be cognisant of:

Booklet 1: General ethical guidelines for health care professions

Booklet 2: Ethical and professional rules of the Health Professions Council of South Africa as promulgated in government gazette R717/2006

Booklet 3: National Patients’ Rights Charter

Booklet 4: Seeking patients’ informed consent: The ethical considerations

Booklet 5: Confidentiality: Protecting and providing information

Booklet 6: Guidelines for the management of patients with HIV infection or AIDS

Booklet 7: Guidelines withholding and withdrawing treatment

Booklet 9: Guidelines on Patient Records

Booklet 10: Guidelines for the practice of Telemedicine

Booklet 11: Guidelines on over servicing, perverse incentives and related matters

Booklet 13: General ethical guidelines for health researchers

Booklet 16: Ethical Guidelines on Social Media

Each booklet contains a clear table of contents. Information is clearly defined and categorically listed following this.

Our values and ethical responsibilities inform and direct our professional behaviour. They provide the foundation on which our personal and professional conduct is built. They dictate who we are as healthcare professionals, how we engage with our colleagues, clients, peers and the community as a whole. I believe that it is vitally important for us all to step back and take a look at ourselves and our professional practice, remember why we chose to become healthcare professionals and who we are ultimately serving.

I encourage you to all get a copy of the booklets and have a read through them. There is a great deal of valuable information hiding in their pages.

The booklets are all available from the HPCSA website, in one Pdf Download – please see the link below.