Ethics in Physiotherapy Practice – An African Perspective

  • Ajediran I. BelloEmail author
  • Babatunde O. A. Adegoke
Part of the Advancing Global Bioethics book series (AGBIO, volume 13)


Appalling incidences of disabling diseases, its attendant consequences for rehabilitation and the underlying ethical implications in healthcare practice occur daily in Africa. The practice of physiotherapy is often confronted by many moral issues that may not have been duly clarified either during training or years of professional practice. Apart from the shortage of physiotherapists to confront the prevailing rehabilitation needs, physiotherapy practice in Africa presents peculiar ethical concerns given the cultural peculiarities, pervading level of illiteracy and widespread poverty. The struggle to align physiotherapy practice in Africa with global trends however seems to have obliterated the physiotherapists’ focus on the peculiar ethical requirements of most illnesses on a continental basis. Previously, studies investigating ethical issues in physiotherapy practice have been tailored to the Western culture though cultural beliefs and values are crucial to the planning and implementation of healthcare services. There is hence the need to present ethics guiding the practice of physiotherapy in the cultural, societal, regional and geographical contexts. In a resource poor society where patients may not be fully aware of their rights, patients’ rights and dignity may be advertently or inadvertently violated. This chapter is therefore aimed at presenting the African perspectives on ethical concerns in physiotherapy practice.


Rehabilitation Physiotherapy practice Ethics African culture 


  1. Asem, A.L. 2004. Medical referrals to physiotherapists, do they tell you enough? Physical Therapy 74: 356–360.Google Scholar
  2. Balogun, J.A. 2017. The case for a paradigm shift in the education of healthcare professionals in Nigeria. Keynote Address at the Second Distinguished Guest Lecture of the University of Medical Sciences in Ondo City, Nigeria on May 15, 2017. Retrieved from
  3. Balogun, J.A., C. Mbada, A. Balogun, O.A. Bell, and U. Okafor. 2016. Profile of physiotherapist educators in Anglophone West African countries: A cross-sectional study. International Journal of Medical and Health Sciences Research 3 (9): 99–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bello, A.I., and I.G. Lawson. 2013. Attitudes and barriers towards engaging in continuing professional development among clinical physiotherapists in Ghana. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practices. 11 (1): 1–8.Google Scholar
  5. Bradshsaw, D., R. Norman, D. Pieterse, and N.S. Levitt. 2007. Estimating the burden of diseases attributable to diabetes in South Africa in 2000. South African Medical Journal 97: 700–706.Google Scholar
  6. Chigbo, N.N., E.R. Ezeome, T.C. Onyeka, and C.C. Amah. 2015. Ethics of physiotherapy practice in terminally ill patients in a developing country, Nigeria. Nigeria Journal of Clinical Practice 18: S40–S45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dalal, S.I., J.J. Beunza, J. Volmink, C. Adebamowo, F. Bajunirwe, and M. Njelekela. 2011. Non-communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa: What we know now. International Journal of Epidemiology 40 (4): 885–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. De Beer, J., and J. Chipps. 2014. A survey of cultural competence of critical care nurses in KwaZulu-Natal. South Africa Journal of Critical Care 30 (2): 50–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frantz, J.M., and S.L. Amosun. 2011. Identifying strategies to improve research publication output in health and rehabilitation sciences: A review of the literature. African Journal of Health Profession Education 3 (1): 7–10.Google Scholar
  10. Hoffmann, W.A., and N. Nortjé. 2015. Ethical misconduct by registered physiotherapists in South Africa (2007–2013): A mixed methods approach. South African Journal of Physiotherapy 71 (1): 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kirigia, M.J. 2007. The economic cost of health professionals brain drain in the African region: A case study. The African Health Monitor-A Magazine of the WHO Regional Office of Africa 7 (1): 37–40.Google Scholar
  12. Kirsh, N.R. 2009. Bringing us up to code: Change is coming to APTA’s ethics documents for physiotherapists and physiotherapist assistants. Physiotherapy in motion 10: 64–66.Google Scholar
  13. Mash, R.J., S. Govender, A.-A. Isaacs, A. De Sa, and A. Schlemmer. 2013. An assessment of organisational values, culture and performance in Cape Town’s primary healthcare services. South African Family Practice 55 (5): 459–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Monsudi, K.F., T.O. Oladele, A.A. Nasir, and A.A. Ayanniyi. 2015. Medical ethics in Sub-Sahara Africa: Closing the gaps. Africa Health Sciences 15 (2): 673–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mostert-Wentzel, K., J. Frantz, and J. Van Rooijen. 2013. A model for community physiotherapy from the perspective of newly graduated physiotherapists as a guide to curriculum revision. African Journal of Health Profession Education 5 (1): 19–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nortjé, N., and J. de Jongh. 2015. Ethical dilemmas experienced by occupational therapy students: The reality. Africa Journal of Health Professions Education 7 (2): 187–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Odebiyi, D.O., A.R. Amazu, M.O. Akindele, S. Igwe, and M.O.B. Olaogun. 2010. Mode of referral of patients for physiotherapy by physicians. African Journal of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences 2 (1): 14–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. O’Shaughnessy, D.F., and M. Tilki. 2007. Cultural competency in physiotherapy: A model for training. Physiotherapy 93: 69–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. O’Sullivan, S.B. 2003. Clinical decision making. In Physical rehabilitation, 5th ed. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.Google Scholar
  20. Unger, M., and S.D. Hanekom. 2014. Benefits of curriculum renewal: The Stellenbosch University physiotherapy experience. African Journal of Health Professions Education 6 (2): 222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. WCPT (World Confederation for Physical Therapy). 2016. Africa region supports Sierra Leone physical therapists in move towards a degree. Retrieved from
  22. WCPT-A (World Confederation for Physical Therapy-Africa). 2017. WCPT Member Organisations. Retrieved on June 7, 2017 from
  23. World Health Organisation. 2016. Disability and rehabilitation. Retrieved from

Further Reading

  1. Barbouchi, L. 2015. Culture in society and society in culture: Understanding threads of cultural-social dialetic. Philosophical papers and reviews 6 (3): 16–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beauchamp, T.L., and J.F. Childress. 2001. Principles of biomedical ethics. 5th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Van Graan, A.C., M.J.S. Williams, and M.P. Koen. 2016. Clinical judgement within the South African clinical nursing environment: A concept analysis. Health SA Gesondheid 21: 33–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Health SciencesUniversity of GhanaAccraGhana
  2. 2.College of MedicineUniversity of IbadanIbadanNigeria

Personalised recommendations