Obstetricians' choice of cesarean delivery in ambiguous cases: is it influenced by risk attitude or fear of complaints and litigation?

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Jan;200(1):48.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.07.021. Epub 2008 Oct 30.


Objective: The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that obstetricians' choice of delivery method is influenced by their risk attitude and perceived risk of complaints and malpractice litigation.

Study design: The choice of delivery method in ambiguous cases was studied in a nationwide survey of Norwegian obstetricians (n = 716; response rate, 71%) using clinical scenarios. The risk attitude was measured by 6 items from the Jackson Personality Inventory-Revised.

Results: The proportion of obstetricians consenting to the cesarean request varied both within and across the scenarios. The perceived risk of complaints and malpractice litigation was a clear determinant of obstetricians' choice of cesarean in all of the clinical scenarios, whereas no impact was observed for risk attitude.

Conclusion: Obstetricians' judgments about cesarean request in ambiguous clinical cases vary considerably. Perceived risk of complaints and litigation is associated with compliance with the requested cesarean.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Malpractice
  • Middle Aged
  • Obstetrics / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Obstetrics / methods*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk-Taking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires