Ethics Schmethics

Submitted by Desmond Slattery

Many people commented this past Sunday on how “ethical” I looked. Perhaps this is the result of having attended or staffed all of Instructor Sue Wood’s previous Ethics classes. Curiously, the entire GotYourBack staff is suddenly “busy” every time Ethics rolls around. I guess they did not get the memo, Ethics with Sue is actually……………………….FUN!

After students are lured into the class (and this past Sunday we lured a full class) we lock the doors so no one can escape. Then we sedate them with our tea bar and snack table. Some participants demand my coffee which sets up our first ethical dilemma. I can only make 2 cappuccinos at a time via a lengthy espresso making procedure. With 40+ people in the class, some caffeine addicted, confrontations are inevitable. Fortunately, Sue never travels without a security detail during Ethics, and order is quickly restored.

The class proceeds with the required instruction of required core topics such as informed consent, subcontractor/employees status, record keeping and confidentiality, fine print in Massage Law, differences in state laws, and so on. What I have learned attending these classes is that the most interesting part is listening to the comments and contributions of the participants. Their experiences, questions and knowledge make this possibly one of the most engaging classes. Once the class and conversation gets rolling, Sue just guides and probes, pointing out the ethical considerations while the security details limits the throwing of objects and guards the cappuccino machine. There was a guy at Table #3 who, like a lawyer, kept reciting details and subsections of contract details and massage law adding great information on the topics being discussed. Turns out later we find out he is a lawyer/MT!

Sue introduced to us the absolutely fascinating story of a British Massage Therapist working closely with a top level professional sports team. Over the course of several years it became apparent to the therapist that team members were engaging in illegal doping. There are many other bits to this story that have recently been in the news, but for us the crucial parts are the ethical questions raised. At Table #5, an MT who has a colleague who contracted with this team was exchanging text massages detailing more information on this subject allowing us to consider the “ethics” with more factual information.

Sue made the error of allowing me to take over the class for a few minutes while she took a break. So I bored them with the following story: Many years ago I was managing some young employees (approx 20 years old) and shared with them what I thought was some worldly experience. I said, “There are many things you cannot control in business – customers showing up late, being rude, the weather, etc, but there is one thing that remains in your control and you can be steadfast  – your ethics and reputation. I added that your good reputation may serve you later, but upholding ethical and moral standards can actually feel very rewarding”. They looked at me like I was some kind of lunatic. I do not think they believed a word I said!

It was getting late and I was not getting bored or anything, but when were we going to talk about sex? I mean, what is an ethics class without sex? Finally I had to forcefully step in and ask Sue, “when are we going to talk about That Book”?  Sue looked slightly irritated and so  the subject was brought up. The book in question, if you have not heard, is “Touchy Subjects, Tales from the Massage Table”. Neither Sue nor I can claim to offer a review of this book because to be honest with you, we could not read more than 5 pages. It’s not that its poorly written…we are told there are some solid redeemable massage nuggets, but it was page after page of soft porn. So the subject of sex was covered. It’s a pretty straightforward and clear cut issue; easy to cover and move through quickly. This was remarkable to me! 10 years ago, if massage was portrayed badly in the media, everyone would be up in arms claiming bias or injustice. Now it’s just a minor irritant….oh look, a dinosaur! To me this means that the field has come a long way and massage therapists feel much more confidant with their value and reputation.

So, time was up and class had ended. Normally, people rush for the exits, but not with Ethics. People lingered and chatted and were making a commotion. Instructor Sue Wood does the impossible – makes Ethics fun!

Oh, I did notice, the security detail forgot to unlock the doors……………………………………………….

Sue Wood is a PA licensed massage therapist and an AOBTA certified shiatsu practitioner. She is also a graduate of the shiatsu Instructor’s Training Program at the Meridian Shiatsu Institute in Wayne, Pennsylvania. She has served in the Wellness industry as a teacher, department supervisor and advisory board member in massage programs in Philadelphia and the surrounding region.