Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


Completion of all second year units PHTY203 Physical Activity and Exercise in Physiotherapy , PHTY205 Cardiorespiratory Physiotherapy Practice 1 , PHTY206 Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Practice 1 , PHTY207 Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Practice 2 , PHTY208 Pathophysiology for Physiotherapy , PHTY209 Neuroscience for Physiotherapy , PHTY210 Movement Science for Physiotherapy , PHTY211 Research and Evidence-Based Practice for Physiotherapy

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit addresses ethics and ethical issues relevant to contemporary health practice in preparing students to identify and respond to ethical challenges in health practice. Codes of ethics for health disciplines will be reviewed. Cultural, social, legal and spiritual factors that influence individual values and beliefs will be explored. Reflection and reasoning skills will be developed in applying ethical concepts to analyse common dilemmas encountered in health practice.

This is the first unit of the Physiotherapy Honours program and students will extend their application of health care ethics to research. Students will further develop their skills in systematically conducting database searches to identify research literature and using referencing systems. Students will develop advanced skills in critical appraisal of research literature and synthesis of current knowledge, and academic writing. The unit aims to develop students' understanding and application of health care ethics to physiotherapy and to develop students' knowledge and skill in exploration of the literature to inform the development of a research question.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Compare cultural, social, legal and spiritual factors that influence individual values and beliefs (GA1)

LO2 - Discuss ethical issues and challenges relevant to the provision of health care and in particular to physiotherapy practice (GA3, GA4, GA8)

LO3 - Develop a research question and, develop, justify and conduct a search strategy appropriate to the question (GA3, GA4, GA8, GA10)

LO4 - Critically appraise and synthesise the findings of published research papers and discuss the implications for research and/or clinical practice; (GA4, GA5, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively


Topics will include: 


The Human Person 

  • ACU Core curriculum 
  • Philosophical, theological and secular notions of personhood 
  • Human dignity and flourishing  


Health care ethics 

  • What is ethics and its relation to health care? 
  • International and national codes of health care ethics 
  • Codes of ethics for health professionals in Australia 


Foundations of health care ethics  

  • Ethical theories (e.g. deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, an ethic of care) 
  • Principles in practice (e.g. beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, respect for autonomy) 
  • The health professional as moral agent 


Factors that influence individual values and beliefs (e.g. cultural, social, legal, spiritual) 


Ethical issues and professional practice 

  • Ethical reasoning and deliberation in clinical practice 
  • Conscientious judgements/objections 


Ethics and professional misconduct 

  • Professional misconduct 
  • Not of good character 
  • Sexual misconduct 
  • Fraudulent conduct 


Research ethics 

  • International human rights principles governing research conducted upon human subjects  
  • National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines on Research Conducted upon Human Subjects 
  • National and local Human Research Ethics Committees 
  • Health research 


Resource allocation  

  • Justice as fairness; distributive and comparative justice 
  • Public health policy and health care resource allocation 


Scientific Literature 

  • Systematic literature searches 
  • Relevant electronic databases 
  • Systematic reviews 
  • Critiquing scientific literature 


Communication of Results 

  • Scientific writing skills 
  • Oral presentation skills 
  • Thesis guidelines 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of learning with a combination of face-to-face, online and other directed independent learning activities. In this unit, students will work both independently and in collaboration with their supervisor(s). Students will be mentored and supported in their learning by their supervisor(s) who will provide regular guidance and maintain contact with the student. Supervisors will demonstrate respect for, and encourage, the student as an independent learner.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategies for this unit consist of a written assignment, an oral presentation and a literature review, and align with the student’s acquisition of knowledge across the unit. Assessment task 1 (Assignment) requires the student to discuss and evaluate an ethical and/or moral issue relevant to physiotherapy practice. Assessment tasks 2 and 3, the oral presentation and literature review, require the student to demonstrate high level communication skills to report on development of a research question, search strategy and retrieval and synthesis of scientific literature relevant to their research question. These are authentic tasks reflecting the skills required by a researcher. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment task 1: Assignment 

Requires students to demonstrate their understanding of health care ethics relevant to practice as a physiotherapist. 


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA8

Assessment task 2: Oral presentation 

Requires students to demonstrate and communicate their understanding of their research topic in an oral presentation. 


LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment task 3: Literature review 

Requires students to demonstrate and communicate their understanding of their research topic in a written form. 


LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Beauchamp, T., & Childress, J. (2013). Principles of biomedical ethics (7th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. 

Berglund, C. (2012). Ethics for health care (4th ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford. 

Catholic Health Australia. (2001). Code of ethical standards for Catholic health and aged care.  

Freegard, H. (2012). Ethical practice for health professionals. (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Cengage. 

Kerridge, I., Lowe, M., & McPhee, J. (2013). Ethics and law for the health professions. (4th ed.). Sydney: The Federation Press. 

Morrison, E. (2018). Health care ethics: Critical issues for the 21st century (4th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett. 

Ozolins, J., Grainger, J. (2015). Foundations of Health Care Ethics: Theory to Practice. Cambridge University Press, Australia.  

Carter, R.E., & Lubinsky, J. (2016). Rehabilitation research: principles and applications (5th ed.) St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders. 

Heiman, G. (2014). Basic statistics for the behavioral sciences (7th ed) Belmone, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage. 

Portney, L. G., & Watkins, M. P. (2015). Foundations of clinical research: Applications to practice (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall Health. 

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