Doing what’s right: A grounded theory of ethical decision-making in occupational therapy
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BACKGROUND: Ethical decision-making is an important aspect of reasoning in occupational therapy practice. However, the process of ethical decision-making within the broader context of reasoning is yet to be clearly explicated. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to advance a theoretical understanding of the process by which occupational therapists make ethical decisions in day-to-day practice. METHOD: A constructivist grounded theory approach was adopted, incorporating in-depth semi-structured interviews with 18 occupational therapists from a range of practice settings and years of experience. Initially, participants nominated as key informants who were able to reflect on their decision-making processes were recruited. Theoretical sampling informed subsequent stages of data collection. Participants were asked to describe their process of ethical decision-making using scenarios from clinical practice. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a systematic process of initial then focused coding, and theoretical categorization to construct a theory regarding the process of ethical decision-making. FINDINGS: An ethical decision-making prism was developed to capture three main processes: Considering the Fundamental Checklist, Consulting Others, and Doing What's Right. Ethical decision-making appeared to be an inductive and dialectical process with the occupational therapist at its core. CONCLUSION: Study findings advance our understanding of ethical decision-making in day-to-day clinical practice.
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