THE doctor accused by a mother of leaving her newborn baby to die was supported by evidence from his colleagues yesterday. Dr Faisal Al-Zidgali, 35, said premature Rebecca Cassidy as ''unviable'' and claimed any attempt to save her would have been ''futile, heroic, and foolish''.

His decision to walk away from the infant and leave her to die in the arms of her mother, Kirsty, at Ayrshire Central Hospital is the central issue of a fatal accident inquiry.

However, a midwife told the third day of the inquiry in Kilmarnock that she had warned Mrs Cassidy, 23, long before the birth that her baby would be extremely small and only had a slim chance of life.

It was claimed Mrs Cassidy did not listen to the warning from midwifery sister Helen Ryrie, who said Rebecca was the smallest baby she had been seen born alive in 16 years, and simply insisted her son, Darren, had been born prematurely and had survived.

Mrs Cassidy gave birth after 23 weeks to 1lb 4oz Rebecca at the Irvine maternity unit on September 7 last year.

Mrs Ryrie, 39, said: ''Before the baby was born, I tried to explain to Mrs Cassidy that the baby would be born in a very premature state and there was very little chance there would be a good outcome.

''She just didn't seem to accept what we were saying. She kept referring to the fact that her son had been born prematurely at 29 weeks and he had done well and she seemed to think the same thing would happen in this case.

''Rebecca lay on the bed curled up and she looked smaller than my hand. The baby's condition deteriorated very quickly after the cord was cut. Her colour was very poor, she started going blue, her heartbeat was dropping, and she was gasping occasionally.''

Ms Ryrie added that she was not surprised by Dr Faisal Al-Zidgali's decision that Rebecca was too small to be treated.

''I realised she was very, very immature and felt there was nothing that could be done for her,'' she said. Another midwife said Mrs Cassidy had seemed to accept Dr Al-Zidgali's decision. Ms Margaret McLean, 31, said after the doctor left the room the atmosphere was calm.

''Mrs Cassidy had Rebecca in her arms and she said: 'She's beautiful isn't she?' I replied yes and she said she was glad to have her with her rather than having her taken away. She was glad she had the precious time with her. She appeared to appreciate what Dr Al-Zidgali had said.''

Consultant obstetrician Dr Samuel Prigg said new guidelines were introduced in the wake of Rebecca's birth. One was that parents were given the right to be involved in making the decision on treatment. However, where doctors and parents were at loggerheads, the doctor's ruling would be the more important.

Dr Prigg, 47, said: ''I think they should be involved in the decision making process but unfortunately there will be some parents we will not be able to take with us.''

When depute fiscal Murdo MacTaggart asked him if in those circumstances medical decisions took priority, he replied: ''Yes.''

Dr Prigg also said nothing could have been done to prevent Kirsty going into labour early. Referring to the care she received while she was pregnant, he said: ''I don't see how the doctors could have done anything that would have changed the outcome.''

He said there were drugs that could have been given to delay the labour but these would only have put it off for a day or two.

Mrs Cassidy and her husband, John, of Benbain Place, Irvine, claim they and not a doctor should have been allowed to make the final decision and are campaigning for a change in the law.

The couple, who also have a son, Darren, four, and a daughter, Pamela, two, claimed Rebecca was 25-weeks-old and was born breathing and moving by herself, and should have been treated.

Mrs Cassidy told the inquiry she was so distraught when the doctor left she screamed at him to come back and help Rebecca.

The inquiry is expected to end today.