No caesarean for big baby: mother sues


A woman who claims she suffered pelvic injuries while giving birth to a large baby at Westmead Hospital is seeking damages, alleging the hospital was negligent in failing to deliver the child by caesarean section.

Renee Dibley won an extension of time yesterday to sue the Sydney West Area Health Service over the birth of her daughter at the hospital on July 21, 1997.

Lawyers for the health service submitted that Ms Dibley should be barred from pursuing legal action because she launched her suit last year, well outside the three-year limitation period.

But Ms Dibley's lawyers successfully argued that she suffered her first symptoms of pelvic instability only in 2005, and had initiated legal action within the necessary time frame.

An ultrasound at the hospital's antenatal clinic revealed that Ms Dibley was expecting a large baby, the court heard.
She was concerned about the prospect of delivering a baby of that size as both her mother and her sister had struggled to deliver large babies naturally, ultimately requiring caesarean sections.

Ms Dibley spent nine days in hospital recovering, left the hospital on crutches and experienced pain for about four months.

In his judgmeent, Justice Bruce James noted Ms Dibley had "expressed her concern to hospital staff and asked about the possibility of having a caesarean section rather than attempting a vaginal delivery".

She was not seen by a senior specialist obstetrician, but was told by a doctor on July 9 that if she did not go into labour in the next few days, it would be induced. Her due date of July 13 passed and Ms Dibley was admitted to hospital on July 21, when labour was induced.

She suffered a "long and difficult labour", the court heard, cared for by midwives and on-duty obstetric registrars.
Her daughter was born weighing almost 4.2 kilograms and Ms Dibley spent nine days in hospital recovering. She left the hospital on crutches and experienced pain for about four months.

In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, Ms Dibley said she stumbled while walking up a flight of stairs in 2005 and "immediately experienced a severe pain in the pelvic region".

An orthopedic surgeon advised that the pain was likely to have arisen from an unstable pelvis as a result of the delivery and Ms Dibley underwent a series of medical procedures and operations over three years.

Thomas Fauncee, an associate professor at the Australian National University's Medical School and College of Law, said there was continuing debate about whether caesareans should be becoming a routine part of obstetric practice.

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