In 2002, Norway experienced a large outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in hospitals with 231 confirmed cases. This fuelled intense public and professional debates on what were the causes and who were responsible. In epidemiology, other sciences, in philosophy and in law there is a long tradition of discussing the concept of causality. We use this outbreak as a case; apply various theories of causality from different disciplines to discuss the roles and responsibilities of some of the parties involved. Mackie's concept of INUS conditions, Hill's nine viewpoints to study association for claiming causation, deterministic and probabilistic ways of reasoning, all shed light on the issues of causality in this outbreak. Moreover, applying legal theories of causation (counterfactual reasoning and the "but-for" test and the NESS test) proved especially useful, but the case also illustrated the weaknesses of the various theories of causation.
We conclude that many factors contributed to causing the outbreak, but that contamination of a medical device in the production facility was the major necessary condition. The reuse of the medical device in hospitals contributed primarily to the size of the outbreak. The unintended error by its producer – and to a minor extent by the hospital practice – was mainly due to non-application of relevant knowledge and skills, and appears to constitute professional negligence. Due to criminal procedure laws and other factors outside the discourse of causality, no one was criminally charged for the outbreak which caused much suffering and shortening the life of at least 34 people.