Study: Human Error Most Common Cause Of Birth Asphyxia Personal Injury Claims

Published by: Saam on 27th Jul 2017 | View all blogs by Saam

A study of birth asphyxia personal injury claims has shed some light on the factors that lead to these tragic events.

The 15-year investigation into Norwegian personal injury compensation claims published in the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynaecology's journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, found that human errors are the most common cause of birth asphyxia claims.

Overall, 50% of these personal injury claims related to inadequate foetal monitoring, while 11% were due to a failure to comply with health and safety laws and guidelines, 14% due to inadequate clinical knowledge, 10% due to a failure for staff to ask for more expert or senior assistance, and 4% because of drug administration mistakes. System errors accounted for 3%, with these including time conflicts, lack of proper guidelines or poor departmental organisation.

The responsible parties in birth asphyxia personal injury claims relating to substandard care were found to be the obstetrician in 49% of case studies and the midwife in 46% of case studies. In 9% of cases, the responsible party was a resident, and in 4% it was an anaesthesiologist or paediatrician.

Birth asphyxia personal injury claims

Norway sees approximately 60,000 live births every 12 months. The Norwegian System of Compensation to Patients (NPE), which is a no-blame system that compensates people who have been injured due to omissions and errors in treatment and does not require proof of malpractice for a personal injury claim to succeed, sees around 65 compensation claims relating to birth asphyxia in the average year.

Dr Stine Andreasen, of Nordlandssykehuset's (Nordland Hospital) Department Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and his fellow researchers looked at 315 personal injury claim case studies received by the NPE that related to birth asphyxia allegations. Of these claims, 161 received compensations and of the successful claimants, 107 injured infants survived, with 96 having some degree of neurological injury, and with 54 children dying. Read More

Most of the compensated cases caused infants to become injured due to a lack of oxygen because of poor foetal monitoring, Dr Andreasen stated. He recommended that obstetricians and midwives receive training and undergo high-quality audits, arguing this could reduce the number of birth asphyxia compensation claims.

In 8% of the successful compensation claims, the Patient Injury Compensation Board or the law courts made the decision to approve the claim, with NPE's experts concluding that care had been adequate but this verdict later being overruled.

Of the unsuccessful claims, care was found to have been adequate in 5% of case studies, while 95% were rejected because there was not an adequate causal relationship between the birth injury and the healthcare provided.

In some cases, people receive substandard care but this does not cause the mother or child to sustain any injuries. A previous study in international gynaecology and obstetrics journal BJOG involving Swedish case studies found substandard levels of care in one-third of all deliveries - however, it can be challenging to determine whether substandard care directly led to a birth injury or whether the injury was caused by another factor.


Carol Smith has spent years looking into hospital negligence compensation cases and other forms of mistreatment and poor service in the healthcare setting for a team of personal injury compensation solicitors in Burnley. When she's not working, she like reading books and listening to hip hop. She's also a fan of Rugby League.



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