Mother loses rights battle for parents of premature babies

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A mother yesterday failed in her bid to effect a change in the law to allow parents of premature babies to insist they are given intensive care.

Kirsty Cassidy, 22, lost her case against a doctor who decided not to resuscitate her prematurely born daughter, Rebecca, because she was "non- viable".

Sheriff Principal Robert Hay, giving judgment after a fatal accident inquiry at Ayrshire County Hospital, Scotland, said the decision made by the doctor was both reasonable and in the best interests of the child.

Rebecca was born at the hospital on 7 September last year, at between 23 and 25 weeks gestation, and weighing 1lb 4ozs. During the four-day inquiry earlier this month, Mrs Cassidy, a mother-of-two, accused her paediatrician, Dr Faisal al-Zidgali, of failing in his duty to keep the child alive by resuscitating her.

She described how he had come into the delivery room, where a midwife was giving the baby oxygen, took one look at the baby and said: "I am sorry, she is too small, she is not viable. There is nothing I can do." He had then walked out.

Dr al-Zidgali later told the inquiry that it would have been "futile, foolish and heroic" to try to save the baby's life. He said her heart rate was 10 beats per minute instead of 120-160 and that her skin was gelatinous and grey, indicating that there was not enough oxygenated blood in her body.

In his 11-page judgment yesterday, Sheriff Principal Hay said he was satisfied that "there were no reasonable precautions whereby the death might have been avoided".

However, he criticised Dr al-Zidgali for classifying Rebecca's death as a spontaneous abortion instead of a live birth - a decision that was later reversed.

"If Rebecca's birth and death had been recorded accurately as a live birth and neonatal death, and not initially as a miscarriage or abortion, her parents might have been saved some unnecessary distress," he said.

Mrs Cassidy said later that she and her husband, John, would carry on the campaign and might take it to the European Court of Human Rights.

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said clinical decisions had to be left to the doctor. "He should be left to make them based on the evidence he has got." Jeremy Laurance