Prank Callers, Jacintha Saldanha and the Unspeakable Act of Unjustified Suicide

 –Richard E. Vatz

     You surely know the basic details, plus a few added by a story in The Washington Post, of the events surrounding the prank call made pursuant to Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s London hospital stay for morning sickness:  Australian DJs Michael Christian and Mel Greig impersonated/caricatured Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles in a phone call, feigning royal concern over Middleton’s health.

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     The nurse who transferred the call, Jacintha Saldanha, to another nurse, who then gave intimate information that the DJ’s radio station broadcast to boast of its conquest, as contemptibly sophomoric not-so-young adults will from time to time do, was devastated.

     The hospital, as reported by The Washington Post, “according to the BBC…neither disciplined nor suspended Saldanha. Nor did Buckingham Palace place any pressure on the hospital to do so.”

     So who is to blame for nurse Saldanha’s killing herself and leaving two children without their mother?

     Jacintha Saldanha.

     Life is tough, and for some very tough.  Nurse Saldanha’s first responsibility is to those who love her and depend on her.  People can go on blaming the immature DJs who pulled this stunt or the radio station which publicized it, and those people would be right: to blame them for an irresponsible, purposeless trick, but not for the suicide of the self-indulgent decedent.

     Why are people so reflexively forgiving of those who irresponsibly take their lives?  Perhaps because they want live people to scapegoat.

     A parent’s first responsible concern in humiliating circumstances is to his or her loved ones, not in regarding the short-term reputational loss she experiences, and especially when serious people did not visit that humiliation on her.

     Another awful, self-indulgent suicide.

      Sympathies to the children, relatives and loved ones of Jacintha Saldanha, not to Jacintha Saldanha.


Professor Vatz teaches at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013

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