Royally tricked: prank call no laughing matter

There’s a bizarre story about two Australian radio show hosts who prank called the King Edward VII Hospital in London where Kate Middleton was staying while being treated for severe morning sickness. In the skit, hosts pretend to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. They first speak with an nurse who connects the shock jocks to the ward where Kate was staying. Once the call was transferred, a nurse gave specific information as to her condition.

The prank call happened on Wednesday. Friday morning, Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who originally took the call was found unconscious, and later pronounced dead from an apparent suicide.

On social media, public outcry has been extremely severe for the radio hosts with people telling them that the woman’s blood is on their hands and that they ought to face criminal charges. It’s really easy to come to such strong conclusions in the face of a tragedy. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

For starters, I feel that we are assuming that it was only because of this incident that the person took her life. Was it a factor? That may seem obvious, but we don’t know. To want to flog the two hosts when we don’t know for a fact that this incident was the cause of her suicide is unfair.

The woman could easily have had significant issues with depression already underlying. Because her error was ultimately an honest mistake. Of further significance is the fact that the woman who killed herself never actually gave any information about Middleton. All she did was transfer the call. So there was another person who also could have realized the outlandish scenario but who failed to do this (that’s certainly not meant to blame the second nurse for this debacle).

I’m not sure what the laws are in England when it comes to protecting personal information. I know that in America, hospitals are supposed to have ways of verifying that information is going to legitimate recipients. Even if England does have those same types of laws, that doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t the first nurse who relinquished the information.

Would it have been reasonable to think that a suicide was going to happen when this prank was initially concocted? I feel that the answer to that question is an emphatic “No.” It’s really easy to cast blame when we know the end result. It’s really easy to get caught up on the bandwagon of wanting to see the hosts punished. But if the suicide was a direct result of the prank, that was an unreasonable response. Because there was a horribly tragic result does not mean that vengeance needs to be sought for its own sake in terms of punishing the DJs.

Radio pranks that are ultimately intended to be in good humor and harmless happen all the time. Ostracizing the hosts is not justice. This event needs to be viewed for what it is: a horrible tragedy and it is something that the hosts are going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. They will suffer long after most of us have forgotten this ever even happened. They will almost definitely lose their jobs (they’re currently off the air). But I feel that wanting to blame them and hold them personally responsible for the fact that a woman took her own life is unnecessary.

In the wake of Saldanha’s death, the Royal Family has expressed condolences and the Duke and Dutches of Cambridge have said that they had never complained about the information being given out.


What do you think? Are they at fault? Should they be fired? Please leave comments below.