I wasn’t following any British royal reproduction stories. We had the American Revolution and that works for me. But this awful turn involves a nurse…
The prank phone call saga in which two Australian DJs impersonated the queen and got connected to a nurse looking after Kate Middleton took a tragic turn today after the nurse who was working on reception in the early hours of Tuesday morning and put the call through committed suicide. She was found shortly after 9 a.m. today.
The nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, was covering the phones, taking calls from families, and in an unwary moment put this call through.
In a hospital, confidentiality is huge. Nurses have been fired for opening a chart without a need to know. At the same time, it’s a constant interaction with the public. And it’s a sensitive job where mistakes are felt deeply.
Jacintha Saldanha may have been depressed, may have been vulnerable. But I can say from experience that a nurse’s reputation and the respect of her peers is huge, and anyone in her situation would suffer. She leaves a husband and two children. A maternity ward is set up to be a nurturing place, which probably made it easier to invade.
The call to Middleton’s hospital was made by DJs Michael Christian and Mel Greig. Greig asked to be connected to “Kate, my grandaughter,” and was put through by the receptionist.
The DJs issued an apology following a furor which erupted in the U.K. following broadcast of the call. The duo said in a statement: ‘We were very surprised that our call was put through. We thought we’d be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents. We’re very sorry if we’ve caused any issues.”
However they have continued to promote the prank on the radio station’s website.
“If we’ve caused any issues.” Shit happens, I guess.
It was not okay, either, to invade the privacy of Kate Middleton– a young woman who did not deserve to be maliciously hounded while in the hospital.
Whatever the immediate impetus for Mrs. Saldanha’s death, the incident was a sobering reminder of the harm that can come in a media landscape where the boundaries between news and entertainment are blurred, where hosts and programs find increasingly outrageous ways of attracting attention, often without considering who might get hurt along the way; and where anything out of the ordinary — an embarrassing video, a humiliating audio clip, a bit of foolish behavior — tends to spread quickly via the Internet, and seems to never go away.
And just a nurse’s guess. Jacintha Saldanha was covering the phones while the secretary was on break. She had patients to care for and more tasks than could be fit into her shift. She was taking calls from families of new mothers in the maternity ward, unwary, unprepared for a professional liar. Tricked into breaching confidentality, feeling disgraced– whatever troubles she might have had, this was too much.