Death of a nurse

December 9, 2012 at 8:56 pm (good people, Jim D, media, Monarchy, tragedy)


jacintha saldanha

The death of Jacintha Saldanha is desperately, unspeakably, sad: a dedicated, caring nurse caught up in events she wasn’t trained to deal with and who seems to have then taken her own life in remorse for her innocent part in what most of us would regard as a trivial incident.

There are no simplistic political points to be made about this tragedy, and I certainly don’t intend to try.

First and foremost, the thoughts and sympathies of all decent people must be with Jacintha’s family and colleagues.

But the howls of outrage (not to mention threats) against the two Australian DJs who perpetrated the hoax that seems to have led to Jacintha’s suicide, are surely hypocrisy. How many of those who now bay for the blood of the hoaxers, were laughing along with them not so long ago?

The hoaxers are now, apparently, in hiding and receiving counselling.

I find it impossible to accept the radio station’s claim that the hoax was not illegal (under Australian law recorded conversations cannot be broadcast without the permission of the individuals involved), but I can accept the station’s claim that the suicide of Ms Saidanha was something that “could not have reasonably [been] foreseen.”

These hoaxes can be very funny and even, occasionally, serve a useful purpose (eg Brass Eye’s “Cake” hoax). The hoax call to the King Edward VII hospital that seems to have resulted in this tragedy was not a piece of classic comedy, and did not serve any socially useful purpose: nor did much done along the same lines by by Chris Morris, Armando Iannuci, Victor Lewis-Smith or Dom Jolly. But I freely admit to having frequently enjoyed their hoax calls and “pranks” simply for their own sakes. It never even occured to me that such innocent mischief-making might ever lead to tragedy.

Dom Jolly, in today’s Independent on Sunday has the honesty to amit to feeling “there but for the grace of God go I.” He closes his thoughtful piece with this:

“I actually feel sorry for the Australian DJs. To be honest, they were not very funny and sounded like a pair of arses. But all they were doing was making a stupid phone call that they didn’t think would even work, it was so ludicrous. Jacintha Saldanha was a nurse, not a receptionist: it was five in the morning and she simply answered the call and put through what she believed to be a call from the Queen to another nurse, who was the one to reveal the paltry details of Kate’s condition. Both the hospital and the Royal Family say that they did not take punitive steps. Prince Charles even joked about it. So I say, leave these DJs alone. They must already be suffering levels of guilt that I don’t think will ever leave them, and that is punishment enough.”


More sense and humanity on this subject from Yvonne Roberts in today’s Observer.


  1. Mike Killingworth said,

    The fact that the Grauniad website wouldn’t open YR’s article for comments says it all really.

  2. Matt said,

    If the blame for the nurse’s suicide lies with anyone, it is surely with the British tabloid press and TV news who created the public circus at the hospital which attracted the Australian radio pranksters in the first place and then banged on about their call for hours on end. Yet professional sycophants like Nicholas Witchell continued to blather on hypocritically, either oblivious or dismissive of their part in the tragedy.

  3. Thinker Belle said,

    American media does the same. The goal: suicide or a mental breakdown so the person targeted will spy for them and produce something they can capitalize off from. It is seen heavily in the Nancy Grace show and elsewhere. They blame someone other than themselves as they think they are doing the world a big favor.

    Here they target lesser known individuals to get access to their medical records. I noticed this May 3rd of this year when I received a check for something I had done out of state that I could no longer feel safe doing in my own state…the media stalkers were out and about hoping to kill off the last form of transportation that a person needs to work and survive.

    These people are often backed up in their idiocy. Call it what you want…it’s murder.

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