Original Research

Ethical misconduct by registered physiotherapists in South Africa (2007–2013): A mixed methods approach

Willem A. Hoffmann, Nico Nortjé
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 71, No 1 | a248 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v71i1.248 | © 2015 Willem A. Hoffmann, Nico Nortjé | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 March 2015 | Published: 24 June 2015

About the author(s)

Willem A. Hoffmann, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Nico Nortjé, Department of Dietetics, University of the Western Cape, South Africa


Background: The role of ethics in a medical context is to protect the interests of patients. Thus,it is critically important to understand the guilty verdicts related to professional standard breaches and ethics misconduct of physiotherapists.

Aim: To analyse the case content and penalties of all guilty verdicts related to ethics misconduct against registered physiotherapists in South Africa.

Methods: A mixed methods approach was followed consisting of epidemiological data analysis and qualitative content analysis. The data documents were formal annual lists (2007–2013) of guilty verdicts related to ethical misconduct. Quantitative data analysis focused on annual frequencies of guilty verdicts, transgression categories and the imposed penalties. Qualitative data analysis focused on content analysis of the case content for each guilty verdict.

Results: Relatively few physiotherapists (0.05%) are annually found guilty of ethical misconduct. The two most frequent penalties were fines of R5000.00 and fines of R8000.00–R10 000.00. The majority of transgressions involved fraudulent conduct (70.3%), followed by performance of procedures without patient consent (10.8%). Fraudulent conduct involved issuing misleading, inaccurate or false medical statements, and false or inaccurate medical aid scheme claims.

Conclusion: Unethical conduct by physiotherapists in South Africa occurs rarely. The majority of penalties imposed on sanctioned physiotherapists were monetary penalties.


Professional Ethics; Physiotherapists; Professional Misconduct; Fraudulent Behaviour


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Crossref Citations

1. (Almost) 50 shades of an ethical situation — international physiotherapists’ experiences of everyday ethics: a qualitative analysis
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