In order to gain information regarding the factors which influence the priorities of physical therapists in making ethical decisions, a survey study of physical therapists and physical therapy students was completed. The participants were 89 clinicians and 28 first year physical therapy students. The first part of the survey consisted of a questionnaire gathering personal data such as social responsibilities, work situation and ethics education and exposure. Participants were also asked to read three ethical dilemmas and rate solutions for these dilemmas categorized as authority-oriented, patient-oriented, patient-authority compromise or avoidance. Differences in these scores were investigated based on personal data. Significant differences on scores were found based on social responsibilities, work situation, ethics exposure and clinical experience. Those participants with more ethics exposure rated patient-oriented solutions higher than students. Participants with greater social responsibilities rated authority-oriented solutions higher. Clinicians seeing "other" types of patients rated patient-oriented solution higher than other therapists. These findings provide information that could be used by educators and administrators to optimize the ability of therapists to make sound ethical decisions.
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