Inquest to shed light on baby death

AN INQUEST into the death of a baby girl born to New South Wales' leading home birth advocate is expected to hear evidence that the tragedy could have been avoided.

The inquest, which began in Sydney on Monday (02), will determine whether the baby, Roisin Fraser, could have survived had she been born under the supervision of medical staff.

Her mother Janet Fraser, national convenor of homebirth network Joyous Birth, claims the baby was stillborn.

She and her partner Trevor Stokes delivered the baby at their Sydney home using the water birth method on March 27 2009.

A few hours later doctors pronounced Roisin dead at the Prince Alfred Hospital after Mr Stokes dialled 000 when the couple realised the newborn was not breathing.

Counsel for the coroner Kelly Rees said an obstetrician and midwife would tell the court that had Ms Fraser sought the assistance of a registered midwife, there could have been a different outcome.

She said both medical experts would say "rather empathically" that Roisin could have survived had she been born in a hospital.

Ms Fraser left the court room as video footage of Roisin's birth and audio of the 000 phone call were played.

Both Ms Fraser and Mr Stokes were recorded telling the operator that the "cord is pulsing".

Their legal representative Phillip Strickland said his clients maintained the baby was stillborn and argued the coroner could not investigate a death unless it was proven the person was born alive.

Ms Fraser returned to the court room on Tuesday (03).

Roisin was Ms Fraser's third child and second unassisted birth.

Her first child was delivered by caesarean, a procedure which Ms Fraser has previously labelled as "birth rape".

Thousands of women throughout metropolitan and regional New South Wales have joined the Joyous Birth network.

The inquest will also determine whether Ms Fraser's online posts and advice on the network's site could have had a damaging impact on mothers around the country.

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