Massage Ethics

Determining response-ability

massage01Massage as in any other profession is a contract between the practitioners and the public so that the public get a reliable, trustworthy service.

Professionals have the right to exercise their skills and there are three relationships involving the massage professional:

  • between the therapist and the client;
  • between the therapist and the profession as a whole;
  • between the therapist and the public as a whole.

Massage Ethics Relating to Clients

The massage therapist must be able to make decisions on behalf of the client and must also consider his/her responsibility to the public good and to the profession. As with other branches of medicine and healing, the massage therapist must abide by spirit of the Hippocratic oath, and do no harm.

There are three possible relationships between the massage therapist and the client:

  1. Where the therapist simply carries out the client's wishes and providing the treatment as requested with no significant decisions unless problems are detected, in such cases, problems must be discussed before treatment continues.
  2. Where the therapist and client dialogue and modify the treatment as it proceeds.
  3. Where the client transfers all decisions to the therapist, so that the therapist determines and carries out the treatment in consideration of the client.

For the primary responsibility is for the health and safety of the client, work must be carried out with due care and diligence. In practical terms, the massage therapist must be competent and have the necessary skills in massage and must ensure that no contraindications are exhibited.

If the therapist finds signs during massage of a medical problem/condition, he/she must inform the client.
If the condition is sufficiently minor, the therapist might continue the massage and simply avoid the particular part without interrupting the massage; the client can be referred at the end to see an appropriate health professional. If the condition is major then the massage obviously must stop immediately.

  • The therapist must be forthright in advising the client of contra-indicators.
  • The therapist must act in accordance with the requirements of the client.
  • The table must be made safe and the sheets and towels hygienic.
  • No interruptions and privacy.
  • Therapists must respect client confidentiality.

The work must be completed on time and be of an acceptable standard. The therapist should not attempt to work beyond her/his competence. In practice, the therapist must decline requests for work in which he/she has not been trained, i.e. medical physiotherapy.

The therapist must not take advantage of the ignorance or inexperience of others. False claims must not be made as to the effects of massage.

The dignity of the client must be preserved. The client must not be intimidated or scared. Practically in massage this means covering with a sheet or towel those parts of the clients body which are not being massaged as necessary and not pursuing with any massage or removal of clothes that the client finds uncomfortable.
It is acknowledged that some people are very shy about their bodies and as such this shyness must be respected. Other people are not shy and often prefer to lay naked, their openness and right to be nude must also be respected.

The therapist must preserve the absolute confidentiality (secrecy) of all she/he knows about the client because of the confidence entrusted in him/her. In a clinic where a client is treated by several different therapists, the clients permission must be obtained before in house discussions about the clients condition.

The massage therapist must not make any value judgements about any client. A therapist may have observations about a client, which she/he may share with the client (with discretion) if appropriate to do so.

Massage Ethics Relating to The Profession

A profession is distinguished by a specialized body of knowledge. In the case of massage, this relates to the physical practice of massage and to the health and well being of the client.

The reputation of the profession must be upheld, and standards improved.
The public knowledge and understanding of the profession must be advanced.
A professional massage therapist must act with integrity towards his fellow members. He/she will encourage and support them in their professional development, including new entrants, up to the limit of her/his competence.

Therapists must keep up to date with current developments in the field. Practically, this may involve peer discussions, subscriptions to relevant trade journals and to have an awareness of relevant scientific research.

Massage Ethics Relating to Public Interest

  • The therapist must practice health and safety to protect the public health.
  • Must ensure she/he has knowledge and understanding of relevant legislation, regulations and standards.

Must work to support the public interest.
In order to meet the trust placed in it by the public as a whole, the professional must have care for the setting in which the profession is practiced: the human setting of massage, the ethical setting, and the overall political setting. This involves the professional voluntarily accepting a code ethics that goes beyond that required of ordinary citizens by law.

The therapist must not take advantage of the ignorance or inexperience of others. False claims must not be made as to the effects of massage.

The Hippocratic Oath was probably not written by Hippocrates, but it serves as a code of medical ethics.
I swear by Apollo the Physician, and Aesculapius, and Hygeia and Panaceia, and all the gods and goddesses, that according to my ability and judgment I will keep this oath.
I will give no deadly medicine to anyone even if asked nor will I ever suggest such a counsel.
Whatever house I enter I will come for the benefit of the sick and will avoid every act of corruption.
Whatever I see or hear in the lives of men which should not be heard abroad I will not divulge knowing that all these things must be kept secret.

A modern version called 'The Declaration of Geneva' was drawn up by the World Medical Association in 1948 and amended as follows in 1968:

At the time of being admitted a member of the medical profession a doctor swears:
I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
I will give my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the secrets which are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
My colleagues will be my brothers;
I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception;
Even under threat I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.
I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.


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