Code of Ethics

The principles and standards presented in this code are not laws but standards of conduct which define the essential ideals for the professional and honorable behavior of HeSCA members. The requirements of the Code may often exceed, but are never less than those of the law. Every HeSCA member has a personal obligation to support and follow the Code, recognizing that the greatest penalty possible for its violation is the loss of respect of professional colleagues and the trust of employees, clients, and society.


As an associate of the health care team, the biocommunicator shares a basic commitment to the improvement of health care delivery to the public. This allegiance to the public’s welfare is portrayed by providing the specialized support needed for enhancing the education and training of health care students and professionals, and for creating and disseminating both educational and public health information. Biocommunicators, therefore, assume an ethical obligation to offer communication and technology services which not only meet the needs of a client population, but do so in a manner consistent with high ideals and principles.

Professionalism entails accountability. Professional ethics are the responsibility of each individual operating within the health care field. Biocommunication professionals cannot shift the burden of ethical responsibility for their own professionalism to other segments of the health care team. Thus, HeSCA’s Code of Ethics becomes an important standard of professional accountability for the biocommunicator in his/her relationship with clients, colleagues, members of allied professions, and the public.

The Code is founded on four fundamental ethical principles: Veracity, Justice, Beneficence, and Autonomy. From these universal principles of ethical behavior flow the standards and ideals which serve to guide the professional conduct of HeSCA members. While the basic obligation to follow these fundamental ethical principles is constant, their fulfillment may vary with the changing needs of the society that the profession is dedicated to serve. Since it is virtually impossible to anticipate in the Code every type of situation that may be encountered in professional practice, the spirit of these ethical ideals should be the ultimate consideration for the ethical guidance of HeSCA members. Furthermore, biocommunicators are encouraged to use the Code as an ethical framework to formulate additional provisions or policy statements that more specifically address their working environment, so long as they remain in accordance with, and not in conflict with, the spirit and intent of the Code’s fundamental principles and professional standards.

Therefore, recognizing that a position of trust imposes ethical obligations upon biocommunicators, the members of HeSCA hereby establish and promulgate the following principles and standards of professional conduct and resolve to be guided by them as embodiments of the ethical ideals of the Association.

Principles and Standards for Ethical Conduct Principle of Veracity

This principle demands the promotion of truthfulness and accuracy, and personal and professional integrity in all interactions and communications.

Standard 1: Truth and Accuracy

Truth and accuracy are of paramount importance in the production and distribution of health-related messages that affect the well being of others.


The biocommunicator should provide well balanced, unbiased, and undistorted information to the fullest extent of his/her abilities, and should attempt to prevent the distortion, misuse, or suppression of information.

The biocommunicator should strive to represent accurately and honestly the views and interests of the client.

The biocommunicator should strive to assure that clients use authoritative sources and provide adequate documentation to achieve maximum credibility in the production and dissemination of information.

Standard 2: Personal Integrity and Accountability

An agreement to be truthful is particularly critical in establishing and maintaining meaningful professional relationships based upon a foundation of mutual trust.


The biocommunicator should always deal honestly with clients and colleagues. This includes adherence to commitments and promises made to the employing organizations and to the clients being served, and to honor the terms of prearranged contracts.

The biocommunicator should assume responsibility and accountability for his/her judgments and actions, and make prompt and complete correction of his/her errors. This includes directly and constructively seeking resolution whenever he/she encounters substantial disagreements or conflicts concerning professional or personal values.

Standard 3: Safeguarding Professional Integrity

The good name of the profession, as well as its integrity in the marketplace, ultimately depends on the way it conducts its services and the way the public perceives that conduct.


The biocommunicator should conduct himself/herself in a manner as to maintain or elevate the esteem of the profession. The biocommunicator should not be subject to influences, interests or relationships which conflict with the best interests of the profession.

The biocommunicator should refuse to cooperate with or condone the actions of co-workers, clients, or employers who misuse their positions for personal, nonprofessional advantage.

The biocommunicator should not advertise or solicit clients in a manner that is false or misleading in any material respect. This includes not misrepresenting his/her training and competency nor misrepresenting the services being rendered to clients or the fees being charged for providing such services.

Principle of Justice

This principle demands both fairness and “what is deserved”. It requires that one treat others in a fair and impartial manner and give what is due or owed, or what can be legitimately claimed.

Standard 4: Copyright and Authorship

Respect for intellectual labor and creativity is vital to academic discourse and enterprise. This standard applies to works of all authors and publishers in all media. It encompasses respect for the creator’s right to acknowledgment and the right to determine the form, manner, and terms of publication and distribution.


The biocommunicator should obtain appropriate permissions to use the creations of others and give proper credit to the creator(s).

The biocommunicator should give credit to whomever credit is due, and assign credit to those who have contributed in proportion to their actual contributions.

The biocommunicator should inform users of his/her service of the stipulations and interpretation of copyright law and other laws affecting his/her professional role and encourage compliance.

The biocommunicator should not commit or condone plagiarism and piracy of any nature in the production, delivery, and/or use of materials or media.

Standard 5: Conflict of Interest

A professional responsibility exists both to the individual(s) to whom one is providing a service and to the institution within which the service is performed. This situation can occasionally produce competing interests in which case the professional has an obligation to safeguard the client’s interests against one’s self interest or those of the employing institution.


The biocommunicator should inform clients and other affected parties of any relationships, circumstances, or interests that might influence his/her judgement or the objectivity and quality of his/her services.

The biocommunicator should avoid competing engagements in outside business or occupational relationships which could limit objectivity or create a conflict of interest in rendering professional service to his/her client and/or employing institution.

If a conflict of interest cannot be avoided or resolved, the biocommunicator should clarify the nature and direction of his/her loyalties and responsibilities and fully disclose the facts and circumstances to involved parties. The client’s interests and the maintenance of professional standards should be given primary consideration in such matters.

Standard 6: Compensation and Personal Gain

The professional should not take unfair advantage of his/her position and/or the association for private personal gain or promoting selfish interests.


When setting fees, the biocommunicator should ensure that they are fairly applied and commensurate with the service performed and should agree with the client in advance on the fee or fee basis.

The biocommunicator should not accept or tender fees or commissions to others for client referrals.

The biocommunicator should not exploit the title and other symbols of the association for personal profit or gain.

Standard 7: Discrimination in Service

Professional service and support should not be denied to colleagues or clients nor performed at any lesser level of competence, as a result of their race, creed, sex, age, or national origin.


The biocommunicator should adhere to nondiscriminatory and nonprejudicial behavior in every employment situation and endeavor to promote its practice in others.

The biocommunicator should not allow personal relationships to compromise in any way the proper execution of his/her professional responsibilities and duties.

Principle of Beneficence

In its most general form, this principle requires one to abstain from injuring others and to help others further their important and legitimate interests, including the prevention or removal of possible harms. Benevolent service is the “sine qua non”‘ of the professional relationship.

Standard 8: Quality of Service

It is always expected that the best possible service will be rendered to advance the client’s interest quite apart from the amount of the reward.


The biocommunicator should deliver quality service, in a competent and timely manner, within the reasonable bounds of circumstances presented by the client.

Whenever the quality of service may be significantly compromised by constraints imposed by the client or by other parties or circumstances, the biocommunicator should inform the client and other involved parties of the dilemma and attempt to negotiate a mutually satisfactory resolution to the matter.

The biocommunicator should not function under conditions or terms which impair or impede the proper application of his/her professional judgement or skills in the delivery of service to his/her client.

The biocommunicator should strive to ensure the protection and safety of all involved parties when executing his/her professional duties.

Standard 9: Professional Competence

The recognition of ability and limits is particularly important among professionals because of their influential control in advancing client interests, and because of the client’s trust and expectation in the professional’s capacity to serve their interests.


The biocommunicator should recognize and acknowledge the boundaries of his/her competencies and limitations of his/her competency and, thereby, should accept only those professional assignments which are consistent with his/her talent and capacity to deliver quality service or to provide expert testimony.

The biocommunicator should make use of all professional, technical, and administrative resources that serve the best interests of the client. This includes seeking consultation, whenever the welfare or interest of the client will be advanced by utilizing those who have special skills, knowledge and experience.

The biocommunicator should strive to improve his/her competence and advance the knowledge and proficiency of his/her professional functions through continuing education and training.

Principle of Autonomy

This principle demands the general respect for human dignity and the uniqueness of others. It requires that one respect persons as unconditionally worthy agents who have a right to self-determination as long as the resulting actions do no harm to others.

Standard 10: Propriety and Respect for the Rights of Others

A professional should always endeavor to treat others with respect, courtesy, fairness, and consistent good will.


The biocommunicator should strive to respect the rights and interests of his/her co-workers and clients and other third parties involved in the delivery of professional services. This also includes respecting the rights of patients, the dignity of the deceased, and the welfare of animals.

The biocommunicator should not engage in nor condone the sexual harassment of others.

The biocommunicator should avoid any false, malicious, or indiscriminate injury to the professional reputation or work of others. This includes refraining from commenting disparagingly without justification about the services of another professional colleague.

Standard 11: Self-Determination and Informed Consent

Those who may be affected by the professional’s services effects have a legitimate right to be informed of their situations and to participate, up to the limits of their competencies, in the decision-making process.


The biocommunicator should avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of clients and promote the maximum self-determination on the part of clients. This includes presenting options and providing necessary information for clients to make informed judgments.

The biocommunicator should obtain adequate prior and informed consent to use information obtained or materials produced during the course of his/her professional work. This should include disclosing how the information or materials will be used, and for what length of time they will be in service, as well as providing a clear understanding on all rights and any restrictions related to the dissemination of media materials. When working with minors or other persons who are unable to give voluntary, informed consent, special care should be taken to protect these persons’ rights and promote their best interests.

In regard to conducting or participating in a research project, the biocommunicator should ensure that all relevant parties are informed as to the purpose and nature of the research, and that they have freedom of choice to accept, refuse, or terminate participation. This should include disclosing any important aspect of the potential or existing working relationship that might affect their decision to enter or continue with the research study.

Standard 12: Confidentiality

Invading a person’s right to privacy deprives him/her of personal dignity and the freedom of self-determination to which he/she is entitled.


The biocommunicator should safeguard individuals’ right to privacy by judiciously protecting information of a confidential or private nature within the constraints of the law. Such information should be revealed to others only with the consent of the person or the person’s legal representative, and where appropriate, the person should be informed of the legal limits of confidentiality.

The biocommunicator should make adequate provisions for maintaining confidentiality in the storage and disposal of records.

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