Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist


The Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist (Code of Ethics) delineates the ethical obligations of all physical
therapists as determined by the House of Delegates of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
The purposes of this Code of Ethics are to:

1. Define the ethical principles that form the foundation of physical therapist practice in patient and client
management, consultation, education, research, and administration.

2. Provide standards of behavior and performance that form the basis of professional accountability to the

3. Provide guidance for physical therapists facing ethical challenges, regardless of their professional roles
and responsibilities.

4. Educate physical therapists, students, other health care professionals, regulators, and the public regarding
the core values, ethical principles, and standards that guide the professional conduct of the physical

5. Establish the standards by which the American Physical Therapy Association can determine if a physical
therapist has engaged in unethical conduct.

No code of ethics is exhaustive nor can it address every situation. Physical therapists are encouraged to seek
additional advice or consultation in instances where the guidance of the Code of Ethics may not be definitive.
The APTA Guide for Professional Conduct and Core Values for the Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist
Assistant provide additional guidance.

This Code of Ethics describes the desired behavior of physical therapists in their multiple roles (eg,
management of patients and clients, consultation, education, research, and administration), addresses
multiple aspects of ethical action (individual, organizational, and societal), and reflects the core values of the
physical therapist (accountability, altruism, collaboration, compassion and caring, duty, excellence, integrity,
and social responsibility). Throughout the document the primary core values that support specific principles
are indicated in parentheses. Unless a specific role is indicated in the principle, the duties and obligations
being delineated pertain to the five roles of the physical therapist. Fundamental to the Code of Ethics is the
special obligation of physical therapists to empower, educate, and enable those with impairments, activity
limitations, participation restrictions, and disabilities to facilitate greater independence, health, wellness, and
enhanced quality of life.

Princi​ple 1

Physical therapists shall respect the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals. 

Principle 2

Physical therapists shall be trustworthy and compassionate in addressing the rights and
needs of patients and clients.

Principle 3

Physical therapists shall be accountable for making sound professional judgments.

Principle 4

Physical therapists shall demonstrate integrity in their relationships with patients and
clients, families, colleagues, students, research participants, other health care providers, employers,
payers, and the public

Principle 5

Physical therapists shall fulfill their legal and professional obligations.

Principle 6

Physical therapists shall enhance their expertise through the lifelong acquisition and
refinement of knowledge, skills, abilities, and professional behaviors.

Principle 7

Physical therapists shall promote organizational behaviors and business practices that
benefit patients and clients and society.

Principle 8

Physical therapists shall participate in efforts to meet the health needs of people locally,
nationally, or globally.​