Ethical Disclosure, Misrepresentation, and Conflict of Interest

The ASHA Code of Ethics (2016) (hereinafter, "the Code") now more fully addresses professional self-disclosure. Specific reference to this topic can be found in the Terminology section regarding "conflict of interest" and "misrepresentation." Specific rules in Principles III and IV address professional conduct obligations regarding one's responsibility to the public served and adherence to professional standards. The Code provides guidance about ethical reporting across many areas of practice and research, including the required self-reporting of a professional's own violation of the Code. The following individuals must accurately self-report violations of the Code: ASHA certified audiologists and speech-language pathologists; speech, language and hearing scientists who are ASHA members; and other ASHA members who are not certified. Violations of the Code include misdemeanors, felonies, public sanctions, and denials of licenses and/or credentials.

What Is Ethical Disclosure?

Ethical disclosure is essentially a self-initiated action, with the intent to be honest and complete, to provide personal and professional information in order to remain ethically compliant with the Code. 

Self-reporting is a professional obligation of self-disclosure. ASHA members and certificate holders self-report to ASHA Standards and Ethics through notification and documentation, including mailing a hard copy of any relevant certified documents.

Why Is Disclosure Important?

The act of disclosure is a process of transparency. Foundational to proper, professional, and ethical conduct is the intent to be honest, accurate, and complete when providing required information. Many clinical, research, and teaching scenarios can potentially foster a natural tension between professional obligation and personal preference/gain. Misrepresentation by both errors of omission and commission, as well as by conflicts of interest, can create ethical violations. Adherence to professional obligations and standards is essential to eliminate the chance of ethical violation.

When completing an application for ASHA membership and/or certification, applicants must answer three disclosure questions related to prior bad acts with formal professional discipline or criminal conviction. Those applicants who are able to answer "yes" to any of the three questions must do so, in addition to submitting certified documentation when requested. These acts of notification and submission are considered self-disclosure. The obligation to disclose does not end with the application—it continues through Principle IV, Rules R, S, and T of the Code.

Where Is Disclosure Addressed Within the Code?

The need for, and importance of, ethical disclosure is addressed in the following Principles and Rules:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, both financial and non-financial. (Principle III, Rule B)
  • Do not misrepresent when advertising, announcing, and promoting professional services and products, and when reporting research results. (Principle III, Rule F)
  • Complete materials honestly and without omission, and do not knowingly make false financial or nonfinancial statements. (Principle III, Rule G)
  • Honestly complete all required disclosure information, whether as an applicant for ASHA certification and/or membership or as a reinstating ASHA certificate holder and/or member. (Principle IV, Rule F)
  • Notify ASHA Standards and Ethics if you have been convicted; found guilty; or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to (1) any misdemeanor involving dishonesty, physical harm—or the threat of physical harm—to the person or property of another, or (2) any felony within 30 days of the conviction, plea, or finding of guilt. (Principle IV, Rule S)
  • Notify ASHA Standards and Ethics if you have been publicly sanctioned or denied a license or a professional credential by any professional association, professional licensing authority or board, or other professional regulatory body within 30 days of the final action or disposition. (Principle IV, Rule T)

In addition, ASHA members and/or certificate holders who become " Not Current" are required to answer three disclosure questions upon renewal. Those who are able to answer "yes" to any of the questions must do so, in addition to submitting certified documentation when requested. These acts of notification and submission are considered self-reporting. As noted under "self-report" within the Code's Terminology section, "All self-reports are subject to a separate ASHA Certification review process, which, depending on the seriousness of the self-reported information, takes additional processing time." 

Could This Be A Violation?

If you are concerned that either you or a colleague has not properly self-disclosed required information or conflicts of interest, and may have violated the Code, you have several options.

Regarding a colleague/other practitioner/ASHA member/applicant:

  • Discuss your observations with the colleague, and encourage them to self-disclose.
  • Report the colleague to the appropriate state licensure board, professional association or agency.
  • Consider whether to file a complaint with the ASHA Board of Ethics ("the Board").

Regarding yourself:

  • Consult the Code for more information and guidance.
  • Consult the appropriate Issues in Ethics Statement(s) for more information and guidance.
  • Read the applicable state code(s) of conduct.
  • Self-report any misdemeanors, felonies, public sanctions, and denials of licenses and/or credentials. 
  • Disclose any financial and/or nonfinancial conflicts.
  • Consider whether a complaint could be filed against you with the Board and/or the state licensure board alleging a violation or violations, particularly if you are a supervisor or CF mentor.
  • Contact ASHA Ethics at ethics@asha.org for further information and direction.

ASHA Corporate Partners