The Death of Jacintha Saldanha, Kate Middleton’s nurse – My Lessons Learned

Friday, 7 December, 2012

Everyone were shocked when hearing the tragic news of the suspected suicide of mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, one of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton’s nurses prank called at the King Edward VII Hospital. I feel the pain from reading the statements & reactions from the key parties including Jacintha’s family, King Edward VII Hospital, St James’s Palace. The beautiful occasion of an expecting birth is now forever remembered along with the tragic death of Jacintha.

To me, every human life on earth is precious and I feel we must try to find some lessons to learn from this tragedy. I will group my observations & lessons learned into three categories: Media, We the Public, and Us as Individuals.

*** Media ***

After the tragic news was announced this morning. Many people online went up in arms to demand the Australian DJs who prank called the hospital be punished and even fired. To me, prank calls to the royals or famous people (click to hear the Australian DJs’  call & read the transcript) happen around the world regularly (including a Canadian DJ prank calling the Queen). The prank calls are usually treated as silly fun. And sometimes the unfortunate victims would even laugh along with the prank callers afterwards.

With the worldwide report of the initial prank call and the knowledge that Kate’s private health information was released, I can understand the tremendous pressure and embarrassment Jacintha must have felt inside her. Once the prank call was made successfully revealing Kate’s private patient information, the media at large had no choice but to report it.

To be honest, I did question in my mind why private patient information was released so easily but I am not trying to lay blames here. (note: If I have time, I may write about how Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily and magazine Next Magazine have been crossing some serious and harmful “journalistic” lines in recent years in a future article.)

My lesson learned: I don’t know if Jacintha was ever singled out directly by any press in UK or anywhere for the hospital’s releasing private health information to an unverified caller. In hindsight, it is a tough call for the press to make. Whether to single out any individual? Or to put the focus on the system instead? More importantly, would the public be better served by laying out the challenges and some possible improvements? These are bigger freedom of press issues. Coming back to the prank calls, while we have a tragic death today, I would not blame the prank callers.

Note: By the way, for private financial or health information, stop short of not release any sensitive information over the phone to anyone, one solution is to restrict the release of information only to confirmed & verified registered phone number by dialing out. Call out by using a confirmed phone number on file (e.g. the patient’s home/work number on file, or calling the bank at its number on the back our credit/bank card) thus avoiding prank/fraud.

*** We the Public ***

By “We the Public“, I mean us as a collective, as a group of people. How “We the Public” react to the original prank call and the tragic aftermath of the prank call. (timeline) When I heard the hospital released private patient’s info so “easily” to a prank caller, I felt a bit angry of the hospital. And now, I am deeply saddened for the death of Jacintha. I can also imagine the guilt the two DJs must feel now. And the expecting parents Kate & William being saddened by this tragic news.

My lesson learned: Be more forgiving of others’ actions/mistakes. If we didn’t criticize the hospital as much, would nurse Jacintha felt less pressure? Of course, I am not blaming the media on reporting the breach of privacy, but I have to wonder. We are all humans and sometimes our actions have unfortunate or even tragic consequence that are out of our control.

*** Us as Individuals ***

I want to state clearly that neither the expecting parents nor the hospital has blamed or want to punish Jacintha. St James’s Palace stated that,

At no point did the palace complain to the hospital about the [hoax] incident. On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved at all times.

And the hospital stated that

Jacintha “was recently the victim of a hoax call to the hospital. The hospital had been supporting her throughout this difficult time.

My lesson learned: Ultimately, we are sometimes our own worst critique and we, collectively, have to learn to be more forgiving of ourselves (our own actions/inactions/mistakes/words ... etc etc) A big part of me think, only if Jacintha had forgiven herself more, this wouldn’t have happened.

*** Concluding thoughts ***

Every single one of our lives is precious. Talk to your parents, friends, talk to anyone, call a suicide help line in your area for help: UK (via NHS), Canada (via, US (via, or wherever you are!

Killing yourself is NOT a solution. Remember the friends, families, communities you will hurt and leave behind.

P.S. I read that Jacintha is a mother of two. Jacintha’s children are in my thoughts tonight.

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