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Last night a DJ ended my life

December 12, 2012

Prank calling has been a staple of a certain type of radio show for decades, this station and these DJs didn’t invent it. It may have been a silly thing to do, but actually, what were they after – they were just ringing to find out how a public figure was doing, and were told she was doing fine.

A nurse who was probably not trained or experienced in reception work took the call and passed it thrrough to the ward who were then responsible for the call.

The ward were wrong in passing out information to the radio station, but actually what real harm was done. It is just suppposition, but if there had been anything seriously wrong with the patient, might that not have made the ward staff a little more circumspect – spreading good news is easy.

The nurse who initially took the call might have been expected to be embarrassed at putting it through to the ward, but as the hospital were not providing a reception service, would they really have taken disciplinary action against her for putting the call through to someone better able to deal with it? One assumes they are familiar with employment law even if they are not decent human beings with common sense. Any disciplinary action would have been against the ward staff who gave out the actual information.

No one in the whole sorry saga could have known that the unfortunate nurse would take her own life. Of course it cannot be denied that this incident was the trigger, but it is inconceivable that it was this incident in isolation that drove her to it.

It is also inconceivable that this was the intended consequence of the actions of the DJs or the radio station – it is in the nature of “prank” calls that someone might be embarrassed, and that is why I personally don’t like them. Of course a draconian organisation might instigate disciplinary procedures against staff who are duped by it, so it cannot be said to have no consequence, and perhaps in their hubris the DJs ignored this possibility, but they do not, simply for a little hubris, deserve the conscience-scarring horror of the unintended consequence.

So while the majority of sympathy should rightly be towards the family of Jacintha Saldanha, it is a cold heart indeed that does not have some sympathy with the DJs whose lives are forever affected by the massively disproportionate effects of their silliness.

When this all blows over and we have all forgotten it, those affected will have the rest of their lives to think about it. I know how in sleeplessness I can dwell on things I wish had happened differently, about the times I have behaved badly towards people, or those times I was embarrassed or ashamed by my own actions – fortunately none of mine even indirectly led to the death of another person. I have enough empathy to tremble at the shock and shame and those involved will have to endure.

While the natural instinct towards the Duchess of Cambridge might be to leave her out of this equation, expecting her privileged and cosseted life to remove her from this sorry situation unimpacted, a second’s thought will reveal that financial and physical security does not equate to an iummunity from emotional impact. Without her presence in the hospital, none of this would have happened. While of course no blame can be attached to her, what must have been an already difficult time in a young woman’s life, during her first pregnancy, has become tainted with tragedy. However one may feel about the royal family, a degree of sympathy is surely in order for her unwitting part in this terrible afffair.

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