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Ethics: Standards of Conduct and Professional Practice

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Ethics: Standards of Conduct and Professional Practice

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The Belmont Report (1979) altered the course of medical ethics in research and clinical care articulating core principles of respect for persons, beneficence (non-maleficence) and justice applied through informed consent and assessment of risk and benefits. Two rules of beneficent actions are 1) Do no harm and 2) Maximize possible benefits and minimize possible harms.

NCCAOM Core Competencies on Professional Ethics lists Standards of the Profession first. While it might be assumed Professional Standards is a settled issue, one visit to acupuncturists’ on Facebook reveals a stunning inconsistency, disrespect or just plain ignorance of Professional Standards. Using the risks of harms identified in Module one of this group, this seminar identifies professional standards for ethical practice of acupuncture therapy.

The presentation identifies ethical issues and lapses in professional standards and what it means to be current as a practitioner and for our profession as a whole. Every practitioner of traditional East Asian medicine needs to be aware of professional standards that in turn must be promoted by professional organizations as essential to ethical conduct: do no harm.

  1. Overview, Ethics of Practice Conduct.
  2. Practitioner and Professions Standards re Ethics
    1. Are practitioners up to date on professional standards
    2. What does the profession require re being current on professional standards?
  3. Specific area of ethical standards that require review
    1. Acupuncture needle depths to avoid organ and tissue damage
    2. Acupuncture therapy standards to prevent infection
    3. Acupuncture therapy standards to prevent bleeding and hematoma
  4. Ethics re professional standards for acupuncture needle depths
  5. Ethics re professional standards for preventing infection
  6. Ethics re professional standards to prevent injury from bleeding and hematoma
  7. Questions of professional standards when science is equivocal: Error on the side of caution to risk and longevity
  8. Professional standards re practitioner health, specifically related to inpatient care
  9. Ethical issues re terminology of practice and patient referents.

Dr. Arya Nielsen is an American acupuncturist taught in the classical lineage of Dr. James Tin Yau So. She graduated in the first class of the first acupuncture college in the United States in 1977 (New England School of Acupuncture). She is a practitioner, teacher, author, and researcher and is considered the Western clinical authority on Gua sha. Dr Nielsen is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health and directs the Acupuncture Fellowship for Inpatient Care at Mount Sinai. Her research includes both the physiology and therapeutic effect of Gua sha, acupuncture therapies for acute care and the inpatient setting as well as research on the treatment of chronic pain in underserved populations. Dr. Nielsen is the author of the textbook Gua Sha, A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, (also in German, French and Italian) now in its second edition. She also filmed Gua Sha: Step-by-Step a teaching DVD. Arya teaches internationally on topics related to East Asian medicine and Integrative medicine she developed and teaches the Gua sha Certification Course with ProD Seminars ( as well as courses on safe and ethical practice standards, evidence for acupuncture and traditional East Asian modalities, and inpatient hospital-based acupuncture therapy. Dr. Nielsen is the Chair of the Policy Working Group for the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health, the 70 plus North American member organization of academic medical centers and health systems that support utilization of evidence-based nonpharmacologic therapies as integrative medical care. Arya served on a 2014 Joint Commission Stakeholder Panel on pain that led to their clarification (2015) that nonpharmacologic therapies be included in treatment strategies. Arya can be contacted by email at or at her website

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