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The motivation for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants to do whatever it takes to help an individual restore function and reduce pain can be a very strong one. But what happens when that motivation runs up against professional ethics?

In this month's Ethics in Practice column in PT in Motion magazine, columnist Nancy Kirsch PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA, shares a scenario in which a PT, eager to help patients she's treating while their regular PTs are on vacation, begins using an intervention that hasn't been sufficiently validated through evidence. On top of that, though the technique involves no actual touching in favor of a manipulation of "energy fields," the PT is billing it as a manual technique.

But here's the thing: the intervention seems to be working, if only due to a placebo effect. Patients are telling the clinic's facility manager how much better they feel after the “energy” treatments. Though concerned, the manager is aware that sometimes, alternative interventions are eventually found to be clinically effective—will this be one such example? And besides, no actual harm is being done … right? So what's the problem?

There are plenty, according to Kirsch. Get the details, as well as a rundown of the ethical considerations faced by both the PT and the facility manager, in the May PT in Motion.

"Energy Crisis" is featured in the May issue of PT in Motion magazine, and is open to all viewers—pass it along to nonmember colleagues to show them 1 of the benefits of belonging to APTA. Printed editions of the magazine are mailed to all members who have not opted out; digital versions are available online to members.

More on ethics? New from the APTA Learning Center: "Ethical Challenges in the Academic and Clinical Settings."

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