Prank No More

They said it was just a prank.

The pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was taken to King Edward VII Hospital in London with a severe form of morning sickness.  Two Australian radio show hosts decided, as a prank, to call the hospital and pose as members of the royal family trying to get information about the Duchess’ condition.

They spoke to a nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, who believed they were members of the royal family and put them through to another nurse, who described the Duchess’ condition in detail.  The call was later shown to be a hoax, and the hospital apologized for the breach of patient confidentiality.  The DJs said they were “very surprised that our call was put through, we thought we’d be hung up on as soon as they heard our terrible accents.”

And then Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who fell for the “terrible accents,” apparently committed suicide.  She leaves behind a husband and children.  An inquest will be held to try to determine the cause of her death and whether it is, as many suspect, related to the hoax.

Suddenly, the stupid joke isn’t funny anymore — if it ever was.  The Australian radio hosts say they are “heartbroken” by the suicide.  They say their motivations were innocent and they expected to be hung up on within 30 seconds.  The implication is clear:  it’s not their fault that a harried nurse taking a telephone call at a busy metropolitan hospital didn’t see through their little jest.

I don’t listen to shock jock radio because I don’t think these kinds of pranks are funny.  They’re mean and cheap.  The smug caller always has the upper hand and the audience is already in on the joke; the person answering the phone is usually just doing their job the best they can, and their good intentions cause them to be the object of ridicule.  Even if you can’t predict that a successful prank call might lead to a suicide, how can you possible describe this call as “innocent”?  The Duchess of Cambridge is a public figure, of course, but doesn’t simple human decency suggest you not try to get personal medical information about a newly pregnant young woman trying to deal with a scary condition?  And didn’t the DJs stop to think that, if their call was successful, the innocent staffer who treated their call at face value might at least lose her job?

I hope this terrible story causes the many shock DJs out there to stop their stupid pranks — but given the crassness of most of those shows, I doubt it.

2 thoughts on “Prank No More

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