American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Issues in Ethics: Ethical Practice Inquiries: ASHA Jurisdictions

About This Document

Published 2011. This Issues in Ethics statement is a revision of Ethical Practice Inquiries: ASHA Jurisdictions (2003). The Board of Ethics reviews Issues in Ethics statements periodically to ensure that they meet the needs of the professions and are consistent with ASHA policies.

Issues in Ethics Statements: Definition

From time to time, the Board of Ethics determines that members and certificate holders can benefit from additional analysis and instruction concerning a specific issue of ethical conduct. Issues in Ethics statements are intended to heighten sensitivity and increase awareness. They are illustrative of the Code of Ethics and intended to promote thoughtful consideration of ethical issues. They may assist members and certificate holders in engaging in self-guided ethical decision-making. These statements do not absolutely prohibit or require specified activity. The facts and circumstances surrounding a matter of concern will determine whether the activity is ethical.

Introduction

For the protection of the public and to assist members in appreciating both the scope and limits of ethical responsibilities in their chosen profession, the ASHA Bylaws provide for the creation and maintenance of a published Code of Ethics. The Bylaws also provide a means for holding members accountable to the standards set out in the Code. Specifically, the ASHA Bylaws (2008) state the following:

The Association shall establish a Board of Ethics that shall (1) formulate, publish, and, from time to time, amend a Code of Ethics (hereinafter the “Code”) containing the professional responsibilities by which members and certificate holders shall be bound; (2) develop educational programs and materials on ethics for distribution to members and certificate holders, academic programs, and other agencies and associations; and (3) adjudicate complaints alleging violations of the Code.

Many members of ASHA hold licenses or certificates issued by a state licensure board or a teacher certification agency, allowing them to practice in that state. These boards or agencies may also require adherence to an ethical code. Consequently, ASHA members often come under the jurisdiction of separate and independent codes of professional conduct that, while generally similar in intent and in principle, may vary in their specific provisions. It is the responsibility of professionals to familiarize themselves with all applicable codes and regulations.

ASHA has jurisdiction only over its own members and certificate holders and must judge their actions only in reference to its own Code of Ethics. Likewise, each related state agency or entity is responsible for determining whether its licensees or certificate holders are in compliance with its own particular code.

Discussion

While a violation of a state or federal statute places a member in probable violation of the ASHA Code of Ethics, violation of a code of ethics or a code of professional conduct of another state licensing or certification board by an ASHA member or certificate holder does not automatically constitute a breach of the ASHA Code of Ethics. Each case brought before ASHA's Board of Ethics is judged on its own merits based on the evidence provided by the Complainant and by the Respondent and based on its relevance to the ASHA Code of Ethics. However, as indicated in the Statement of Practices and Procedures of the Board of Ethics, “the final decision of any state, federal, regulatory or judicial body may be considered sufficient evidence that the Code [i.e., ASHA's Code of Ethics] was violated” (emphasis added).

Likewise, violations of ASHA's Code of Ethics do not automatically constitute a breach of the professional ethics of another agency. The conduct of an ASHA member or certificate holder will be judged by other entities according to their own codes of ethics or conduct.

It is quite possible that several entities may adjudicate the same alleged offense, simultaneously or sequentially, and arrive at varying, and perhaps even conflicting, decisions. Such variations may arise from differing principles within the relevant codes, differing investigative powers of the boards or councils, differing burdens of proof required for the finding of a violation, or differing judgments among the boards or councils concerning the seriousness of the offense or the significance of extenuating and mitigating circumstances.

It is important to distinguish between an individual's legal right to practice in the state, typically designated by the state's licensure or teacher certification, and an individual's ASHA membership and certification. A person may have his or her ASHA membership and certification suspended or revoked but may maintain the legal right to practice in the state. Likewise, a person may have his or her state license or state certification suspended or revoked, but may maintain ASHA membership and certification.

When ASHA's Board of Ethics finds a violation, it may elect to share that ruling with other appropriate entities. Specifically, the Statement of Practices and Procedures of the Board of Ethics states that in cases where the final decision is censure or withholding, suspension, or revocation of membership and certification, the Board of Ethics may provide its final decision and relevant case information

  • to any state agency providing a license or other credential
  • to any other professional organization that enforces a code of ethics or a code of professional conduct
  • as required by law.

In fact, the Board of Ethics routinely provides such information to the applicable state licensure board in addition to publishing public sanctions (i.e., censure, and withholding/suspension/revocation of membership and/or certification) in The ASHA Leader. The sanction of “reprimand” is private and is never communicated to anyone other than the person who made the complaint and to the person found in violation of the Code.

Many agencies and organizations with a code of ethics or code of professional conduct also offer individuals a process for appeal of adverse decisions related to violations of their code. Because of the potential differences in the codes and processes noted above, differences in the decisions of the various agencies or organizations related to a violation of their own code are not, in and of themselves, a reason for appeal to other entities. However, the Board of Ethics will typically consider the outcomes of adjudications by other bodies in its appeals process.

In conclusion, when inquiries about the same individual are presented simultaneously or sequentially to ASHA and to a state licensing board or other regulatory group, the adjudicating entities will act independently, possibly issuing decisions that conflict. Each agency or group must evaluate the complaint specifically within the context of its own professional code of ethics or code of conduct.

References

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2008). Statement of practices and procedures of the Board of Ethics. Rockville, MD: Author.

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