All ACHE members agree, as a condition of membership, to abide by ACHE’s Code of Ethics.
But sometimes the practical applications of the Code are not immediately obvious. Following
is some additional information about the Code as well as some suggestions for how you can make
the best use of the Code in your daily decisions and actions.
Background and Purpose
ACHE established its first Code of Ethics in 1941 and since that time has periodically reviewed
and revised the document. ACHE members are surveyed periodically regarding the Code. These surveys contribute
to changes in the Code, and the latest version was adopted by the Board of Governors
in 2011. ACHE believes that the
Code is so integral to the practice of healthcare management that every individual who joins
ACHE must agree to uphold the Code.
The stated purpose of the Code of Ethics is to serve as a standard of conduct for all
members. Accordingly, it contains standards of ethical behavior for healthcare executives
in their professional relationships. These include relationships with patients, colleagues or others served; members of the healthcare executive’s organization and other organizations;
the community; and society as a whole. The Code also incorporates standards of ethical behavior
governing individual behavior, particularly when that conduct directly relates to the role and
identity of the healthcare executive.
The Code and Today's Healthcare Executives
ACHE’s Code of Ethics was never intended to convey vague concepts or expectations beyond the
capacity of today’s healthcare leaders. Rather, it was written to provide practical standards
to guide the thinking and actions of executives when confronted with wide-ranging ethical
conflicts. To strengthen the transfer of ethics to practice, the Code can be used in the
The Code serves as a standard for the healthcare executive’s behavior.
A recent survey of ACHE members indicated that the Code was frequently used to provide
“self-guidance” when confronted with ethical challenges
The Code can serve as a basis for the development of an organization’s administrative
and management policy and procedures. Many ethical questions are recurring in nature,
suggesting the need for development of an organizational ethical standard of behavior.
The Code, along with ACHE’s Ethical Policy Statements, is a practical and useful source
for developing an organization’s policy and procedures.
The Code can to be built into performance standards and measures for executives
and management staff. Because ethics is an essential component to healthcare organizations,
specific ethical behaviors outlined in the Code can be used to help the management team
identify responsibilities, set expectations for behavior, and determine opportunities for
growth and development.
The Code provides guidelines for ethical decision making when there is uncertainty.
When confronted with organizational ethical questions, the Code can serve as a helpful resource
because of its scope and depth. In response to an organizational ethical conflict,
the Code—along with the organization’s mission and values statement—fosters ethical
reflection. Many respondents to the survey indicated that the Code provided guidance for their staff, as well as for creating and reviewing their organization’s code.
The Code serves as teaching tool for colleagues and students. Whether formally,
such as in the classroom setting, or informally through observation, many healthcare
leaders function as educators. Healthcare executives can share the Code with their
colleagues and students to foster ethical awareness. The Code can also be used as a
mentoring tool, helping early careerists understand the importance of ethical decision
making and enhancing their ethical awareness and decision-making skills.
Healthcare Executives as Moral Advocates and Models
As noted in the Code’s preamble, healthcare executives have an obligation to act in ways
that will merit the trust, confidence and respect of other healthcare professionals and
the general public. Therefore, healthcare executives should lead lives that embody an exemplary
system of values and ethics.
But the ethical responsibilities of healthcare executives go beyond their own lives—in
fulfilling their commitments and obligations to patients and others, healthcare executives
function as moral advocates. Since every management decision affects the health and well-being
of both individuals and communities, healthcare executives must carefully evaluate the possible
outcomes of their decisions. They must work to safeguard and foster the rights, interests, and
prerogatives of patients or others served.
Healthcare executives are also models of ethical behavior—for patients, colleagues, protégés, clinicians and others involved in the process of delivering healthcare. Therefore, it is
important that their actions reflect personal integrity and ethical leadership that others
will seek to emulate.
It is the hope and intent of ACHE that the Code of Ethics not only will guide the individual
healthcare executive’s behavior, but will be an important part of his or her obligation to
serve as an ethical advocate and model for the field as a whole.