As public outrage is directed toward a couple of Australian radio personalities who are somehow deemed to be responsible for a nurse’s death in London, please take a moment to consider the real problems that are demonstrated by this story....
Jacintha Saldanha, 46, a nurse at King Edward VII Hospital in London, was on duty as a receptionist early in the morning of December 4th. She received a call from Australian FM radio DJs Mel Greig & Michael Christian pretending to be the Queen & Prince Charles of England and asking to speak to Kate Middleton who was being treated at the hospital for morning sickness related to her recently announced pregnancy. Impersonating the Queen, Mel Greig asked if she could speak to Kate. “Oh yes, just hold on a moment”, said Saldanha and transferred the call to another nurse who discussed some “details of her treatment and condition” amid the Aussies’ parody of the Royals. The audio of the prank call was edited and broadcast.
Three days later Saldanha was found dead. Police said the cause of death was "unexplained" but they were not treating it as suspicious. According to most major news sources she appeared to have taken her own life. The hospital claims that it was humiliation over the prank call that caused Saldanha to commit suicide and, according to most major news sources, the vast majority of humanity should agree with that conclusion as well.
Is it considered logical to deduce that a 46-year-old mother of two would be so distraught over receiving a prank call that she decided to kill herself? Wouldn’t it be more likely that she was desperately unhappy with much more serious aspects of her life? Are we to believe that everything in this woman’s life was sunshine & lollipops until receiving that phone call sent her into a downward spiral of despair? Are people so fragile? Can we honestly say that this prank call directly caused injury, damage, or in any other way caused a serious negative impact on anything or anyone?
Miranda Devine of The Sunday Telegraph claims that this attempt at comedy “suggests a moral compass gone awry” and “listeners and advertisers who encourage the viciousness share the blame”. But blame for what exactly? Can we guess how the phone call itself made Saldanha feel? She was only on the line for less than 10 seconds with the Australian devils, simply transferred the call, and was not the one who revealed any medical details about any patient. According to one source, she only “answered the phone because there was no receptionist on duty at 5:30am” – the fact that she wasn’t even a receptionist and it was 5:30am makes me guess she didn’t very much care about whatever anyone was saying on the other end of the line. She most likely just wanted to get through another shift without too much hassle and go home like any other working stiff.
Is it just me or can you hear the wind whistling through the empty space inside Miranda Devine’s head? There is so much wrong with blaming the radio DJs for this woman’s death, I don’t even know where to start...
While the call itself may not have done permanent damage to anyone or anything, the resulting reaction (or overreaction) is what really had sharp teeth. I would guess that the same hospital officials who so righteously blame the radio DJs were very hostile to Saldanha after it was discovered that it was she who transferred the prank call to the Duchess’ ward and may even have threatened to fire her for it. I would expect these hospital officials to be so frightened of upsetting people of such high stature as the Royal Family that they would be quick to come down harsh on anyone who, even by association, could sully their reputations as loyal subjects. And who could blame them? The Royal Family is a very special group of people who deserve to be adored and have earned their privileges through the use of magical powers that mere mortals do not possess. Certainly Jacintha Saldanha and her Australian killers are not as important as any of the Royals.
Miranda Devine of The Sunday Telegraph provides us with the following profound gem of wisdom: “A prank call exploits the decency of people for cheap laughs. At its extreme, it can play on the worst elements of human nature, allowing the cynical and cruel to humiliate the gullible and naive. It is the sort of bullying ridicule known to torment vulnerable people and to corrode the bonds of friendship and compassion in society.” I would argue that prank calls are not nearly as damaging to our society as is taking ourselves too seriously or, even worse, taking other people too seriously. What good could possibly come from this shameful story? Perhaps it is the opportunity to ask ourselves which institutions in our civilization truly exploit the decency of people or play on the worst elements of human nature - and what has been known to actually torment vulnerable people and corrode the bonds of friendship and compassion in our society?
- Sal E. Mustang
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