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What Can We Learn From The Death Of Jacintha Saldanha And The “RoyalPrank” Phone Call?


Jacintha Saldanha was a nurse at the hospital where Kate Middleton was a patient during the early stages of her pregnancy in late 2012. Ms Saldanha took the initial call from two Australian DJs who were impersonating royalty,  transferring someone pretending to be the Queen through to Kate’s ward, so that they could obtain further information about the Kate and her condition. More information here.

Jacintha Saldanha is no longer with us and it seems that she took her own life as a result of the phone call, and how she felt about it afterward.

Here are some of my thoughts about the situation and what we can learn from it.

Firstly, let me offer my deep condolences and sympathy to the family, friends, colleagues and associates of Ms Saldanha. I am very sorry to hear of her death, and the circumstances of it.

The #RoyalPrank phone call was actually a pretext call, an invasion of privacy concerning  medical information and is likely to have stressed Kate Middleton – the mother of an unborn – also.

Pretext is defined in the dictionary as follows: “a purpose or motive alleged or an appearance assumed in order to cloak the real intention or state of affairs“. One of my hats is that of Private Investigator (PI), so I am well aware of the fact finding power of pretext phone calls. Pretexts are a type of lie and can have the additional potential to cause great harm to the emotional state of the recipients. PI’s use pretexts – either on the phone, in person, or via written communication – all over the world. Often, pretexts are used ‘at the expense’ of the ‘bad guys’. Even the Police have used them in some jurisdictions to catch criminals.

In simple terms, pretexts are a way of obtaining information, which can include intensely personal and private information, which you would otherwise be unable to uncover.

In my view, due to their potential power, pretexts should only be used where necessary, legal and after careful consideration of the circumstances.

Here in Australia, as elsewhere overseas, we have in recent years seen a much greater focus on privacy. Despite social media and the ‘modern way’ we still retain expectations of privacy in certain areas of our lives. Medical and health information is generally seen as one of the most sacrosanct.

In the case of Kate Middleton’s hospital stay, her private medical and health information was uncovered and at a later time, broadcast to the world. The radio station concerned had the broadcast checked by lawyers so presumably the broadcast had not fallen foul of any law. The legal question however was the ‘wrong question’. The right question would have been along the lines of: ‘Should I divulge the private medical information of another without permission to do so’? One might also have asked: ‘ Would I like MY private medical information broadcast to the world’?

We also need to examine relativity and the ‘power of the situation’. Clearly, in the case of Kate Middleton, there is huge public interest; therefore any activities have massive potential impact. Much more than for example; people discovering that when I was young, due to mental illness, I used to crap my pants. In the case of Kate & William, the ‘leverage’ is substantial – can you for instance imagine the likely intense humiliation & shame, magnified by the high profile nature of her mistake, that Jacintha Saldanha might have felt?

The simple truth seems to be; had the Australian DJs concerned not made the call, the nurse Jacintha Saldanha would most likely be alive today.

Earlier today, I came across someone online who appeared to be trying to ‘excuse’ or reduce ‘responsibility’ for the phone call along the lines of it possibly being something which pushed an already fragile Ms Saldanha past breaking point. I was appalled. While that may have been the case, and partly why I used the words ‘most likely’, that is not the point. I reiterate: the simple truth seems to be; had the Australian DJs concerned not made the call, the nurse Jacintha Saldanha would most likely be alive today.

Have we considered what effect the call had upon Kate and William? I have of course heard reports that Prince Charles laughed it off (prior to the death of Ms Saldanha). With respect, I suspect that was a savvy ‘public relations’ approach. William shared some of his mother’s (Diana, Princess Of Wales) suffering from overbearing publicity and scrutiny. Kate is an expectant mother. Shocks and stress can affect the welfare of the unborn. Need I say more?

In my view, the call was demonstrative of a lack of respect for people to whom respect should be shown. Besides being royal (and I am not a monarchist by the way; my preference is for a shamanic theocracy), the couple have many positive traits and seem generally quite normal – they certainly do not need ‘bringing down a peg or two’. This lack of respect is an increasing problem in society today and we will continue to reap the unpleasant side effects of it. Ideally, community leaders (including radio stations) should set a good example.

Personally, I object to such a phone call being called a joke or prank. To me it was an invasion of privacy of a serious nature.  I cannot reconcile the making and publication of such a phone call with kindness. Too often ‘I was only joking’ is used as an inappropriate excuse.

Some might accuse me of not having a sense of humor. That’s just it. This type of call is not humor. It’s a hurtful invasion of privacy. In this particular case it appears as if it has also been the catalyst for the death of a caring soul.

(People who know me well say that I have a good sense of humor, a dry sense of humor and are aware that I once won a Mr Bean look-alike competition – my hair and underpants were different in those days).

Should we ‘blame’ the Australian DJs for the death of  Jacintha Saldanha?

  • People have varied opinions about this.
  • There are reports that the two DJs have been deeply affected. The DJs will of course have to live with it for the rest of their lives.

– Instead, I would rather focus on what we can learn from this situation.

If we can grow as people, and as a community, then the death of  Jacintha Saldanha can at least have helped the world in some way.

I for one will use it as a catalyst for deepening my consideration and awareness of the effects of my actions upon other people.

While it is true that people are personally responsible for how they think about circumstances (more on this in later articles), being able to ‘walk’ that is difficult for most. We need to bear that in mind.

Thinking more carefully, kindly, forgivingly and lovingly is always a good thing. For me, that will be the legacy of this sad situation and the death of Jacintha Saldanha. May she rest in peace.

More information:

‘I am devastated with the loss of my beloved Jacintha’: Husband of nurse who fell victim to radio prank reveals his heartbreak over her death

Radio boss Rhys Holleran says 2DayFM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian did nothing wrong

Pictured: Proud family photo showing tragic hoax nurse with her beloved husband

‘They’re on a witch-hunt’: Australian media accuses UK press of playing ‘blame game’ following Royal hoax call nurse’s death

‘Was she a mother?’ Tearful Australian DJ behind fatal hoax call reveals first thought on hearing of nurse’s death as pranksters break cover to say ‘we’re sorry’

More than two thirds of Australians don’t think DJs were to blame for nurse’s death, new poll reveals

Australian prank DJs interview: Do spare us the self-pity, Sheila, says Richard Littlejohn | Mail Online

Royal hoax call nurse Jacintha Saldanha left a note for her family: Husband demanding answers from hospital

Australian radio station cancels Christmas party and vows to donate half a million dollars to family of nurse who died after taking hoax call

Hoax call nurse ‘left suicide note criticising senior hospital staff over her treatment in days leading up to her death’

Tragic suicide note to DJs written by nurse after royal hoax call: I hold you responsible

Here is an article which illustrates the sanctity of medical information. I quote: “”Medical information theft is the fastest growing area of cybercrime in Australia,” Dr Fernando said. Her research centres on medical and information security.”


“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.”
— Stephen Covey