Autonomy and the future of speaking about physiotherapy.
Article Type: Letter to the editor
Author: McKenzie, Robin
Pub Date: 11/01/2008
Publication: Name: New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy Publisher: New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists ISSN: 0303-7193
Issue: Date: Nov, 2008 Source Volume: 36 Source Issue: 3
Accession Number: 207945641
Full Text: I was unable to attend the New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists Annual conference in Dunedin in April of this year and therefore read with great interested the complete transcript of the keynote address given by Stanley Paris published in the most recent Journal of Physiotherapy. Dr Paris is a world-renowned physiotherapist born in New Zealand. His position in the world of manual therapy is unique and unparalleled.

Towards the end of his address Dr Paris quite appropriately drew attention to the New Zealand Physiotherapy Board's litany of obstructions to be negotiated before permission for him to speak would be granted. The requirements of the Board were itemised by Dr Paris. It defies belief that members of the Physiotherapy Board would subject a physiotherapist of the stature of Stanley Paris to such an ordeal, for ordeal it was.

Dr Paris entitled his presentation "Autonomy and the Future of Physiotherapy". He warns of the dangers that we face, foremost of which is the risk of losing autonomy. His warning is not to be taken lightly. I totally agree with Stanley. Overzealous bureaucrats are a menace to the profession. The Board is demonstrably overpowering and remote from those it should be serving. It is time we, the profession made it known that we require more influence at the top. If this means replacing members of the Board who are out of touch with the reality of treating and facing patients on a daily basis, then so be it.

The Chair of the Board does nothing to improve the situation and makes this whole episode even worse by the content of her response defending the decision of the Board. Evidently the Board had previously sought legal opinion on this issue and was advised "that speaking about a profession is practicing a profession by delivering physiotherapy services". What nonsense. I would like to see that advice in written form and challenge the Board to produce it.

In so defending the indefensible the Chair in her explanatory letter made matters worse by inferring that the Board is "protecting the public from doubtful practitioners" and "protecting the profession from those who might denigrate or destroy the image of a physiotherapist." I wonder if Dr Paris can see the funny side of that defence?

Dr Paris states that he was affronted by the attitude of the Board and obviously the Society must have been embarrassed. Both Stanley Paris and the Society should have told the Board where to go. Where would they have gone you ask? Further embarrass themselves by prosecuting? I doubt it.

The Board needs to reconsider its inflexible application of the letter of the law and consider discretion. There is such a thing as "reasonableness" in any given situation. The suggestion that in future "the Board may adopt a less stringent approach", "a stance which is supported by a more recent legal opinion" is welcome. Too late however to undo the damage to an already tarnished image.

My fear is that this will not be the last time we read of the Boards uncompromising attitude.
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