Written by Matthew Harper.
If kids these days needed any more reminders that prank calls and hoaxes in general really aren’t that funny when you consider the possible consequences, they got perhaps the saddest one imaginable. Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide on December 7th, just days after receiving a prank call from two Australian DJs from radio station 2DayFM in Sydney.
Saldanha was a nurse at King Edward VII Hospital where Princess Kate, who (thanks to endless tabloid and television coverage) the whole world by now knows is pregnant, was treated for morning sickness earlier in the week. The two Australian DJs called in posing as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles using what some have described as “bad falsetto voices.” This might sound like something from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but the fact is, there’s nothing to laugh about here. These DJs coaxed Nurse Saldanha into connecting them to the Princess’ personal nurse, who ended up giving out information that should have been private. Amongst many people calling for Saldanha’s firing and many more clamoring for the hospital to be fined, Saldanha tragically took her own life.
According to Fox News, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, the two DJs responsible for the prank, apologized for the prank the day after it took place and deleted their twitter accounts. This means they deleted their accounts and had apologized for the incident before the tragic death of Saldanha. The two had made and recorded the prank call, but, before broadcasting it, they let it be assessed by their station’s lawyers. The DJs have now been suspended, as has all advertising on the station.
Saldanha had been working at the hospital for four years and had not been suspended or disciplined for the incident. Lord Glenarthur, chairman of King Edward VII Hospital, sent a letter to the parent company of 2DayFM, the radio station responsible for the prank. In the letter, Glenarthur called the actions by the DJs “ill-considered.” He also cited the station’s decision to air the segment after pre-screening it “appalling,” and went on to add that the actions of the DJs caused “the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job tending to their patients. The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words” (BBC News).
Fox News reports that police are calling Saldanha’s death “unexplained” and that they found nothing suspicious when looking into the alleged suicide. They also say that they’ve made no connection between the death and the prank call, but it’s very easy to connect the dots from the intense coverage of the hoax and Saldanha’s part in it to her sudden death. The entire royal family has expressed their deep sadness and condolences to the Saldanha family.