Hospital turns on DJs after royal nurse's suicide

Are 2Day FM hosts Greig and Christian really to blame for Jacintha Saldanha's death?

LAST UPDATED AT 10:00 ON Sun 9 Dec 2012

LORD GLENARTHUR, the chairman of the King Edward VII hospital, has damned an Australian radio station's "truly appalling" decision to air a prank call which may have led to a nurse's apparent suicide on Friday, reports The Sunday Telegraph.

Jacintha Saldanha, who was found dead in nurse's accommodation near the London hospital, is thought to have taken her own life. Days earlier she answered the phone to presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian of Sydney 's 2Day FM.

The DJs, who were pretending to be Prince Charles and the Queen, asked for news about the Duchess of Cambridge who had been admitted to the hospital suffering from acute morning sickness. Saldanha transferred their call to another nurse on the Duchess's ward, who gave details of her condition.

Rhys Holleran, chief exec of Southern Cross Austereo, which owns 2Day FM, said yesterday that the station "could not have reasonably foreseen" their prank having such consequences. He said that prank calls were a radio "craft" which have been "going on for decades and decades".

But in an angry letter to the network, Lord Glenarthur said the call resulted in the "humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses". He wrote: "King Edward VII’s Hospital cares for sick people, and it was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call."

"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station’s management, was truly appalling."

Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday claims the two DJs have gone into hiding after being deluged with abusive comments from the public. The paper says that presenter and former model Greig is "close to a breakdown".

The DJs will be required to make a formal statement to the police and are said to be receiving "professional counselling". A PR for the radio station said that Greig was "very vulnerable", adding: "She is in a very fragile state and we are concerned for her."

Sarah Sands, editor of the Evening Standard, speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show this morning, agreed with Lord Glenarthur that the nurses were not a reasonable target, saying: "It’s one thing bringing down the pompous and the powerful but it’s another [to use a hoax call] to contact a hospital”.

The Independent on Sunday sounds a note of caution, pointing out that "some commentators have warned against linking the hoax call directly" to the nurse's death because suicides usually have a number of contributory factors. But the BBC said Saldanha had been feeling "lonely and confused" after the call.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Jenny McCartney says not only was the call "stupid" and humiliating for the nurses - it was also "an attempt to obtain private medical information by trickery".

And McCartney says it is "pointless to pour Twitter-mob loathing" on the DJs, who she believes will already have learned their lesson. She adds: "They are like gormless children who tied a sparkler to a dog and then watched, open-mouthed, as it savaged a stranger." · 

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Ozzies love the bullying, humiliation tactics of the "in" people over others.

Off with their Head!

""They are like gormless children who tied a sparkler to a dog and then watched, open-mouthed, as it savaged a stranger."

What a dumb thing to write. It was a hoax, a joke. It wasn't a bad hoax, most people thought it was funny.

The outcome, if indeed the death of the nurse was a consequence of the hoax, is tragic. The hoaxers cannot be held responsible, any more than Henry Ford is responsible for road deaths.

If the media hadn't blown it up story would not have been as big. Maybe the media (UK) bear much responsibility.

Apparently, at some point in the prank, you have to let the people you are pranking in on the joke. And if you are recording it, then you need to inform them and get their consent before airing it. All these were not done by the shock jocks on 2day FM before they aired it, even after the news of Jacintha's death broke. Under Aussie laws, they have breached privacy and state laws. For that, they and the radio station should be held accountable. Obviously, Jacintha did not give her consent before her untimely death nor did the other nurse. The Hospital also did not give their consent. Legally, they were in the wrong from start to finish. Very unprofessional radio pranking that crossed the line.

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