Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Never a need for suicide

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Colleagues of Jacintha Saldanha remember her life. Photo / AP
Colleagues of Jacintha Saldanha remember her life. Photo / AP

The fallout from the prank call made by two Aussie DJs to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for severe morning sickness just keeps on coming.

After the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who put the DJs' call through to the ward where Kate was being treated, the radio station 2DayFM suspended the hosts and announced it would be donating all the profits from its advertising to a fund set up to assist the Saldanha family. It cancelled its Christmas party.

The two hosts appeared on Australian current affairs shows, tearful and remorseful, saying they'd never imagined their hoax call would result in the death of one of the nurses.

DJs from yesteryear were wheeled in by news media and, interestingly, DJs on both sides of the ditch said that although prank calls were a part of their everyday repertoire, they never phoned emergency services or hospitals. As Kevin Black put it, you never rang the front of the phonebook. Which is just common sense.

The weeping DJs in the gun were castigated in the UK media for their self-pitying sob fest, as one commentator put it, while images of Saldanha and her husband and two teenage children featured front and centre on every news bulletin and newspaper.

The British Prime Minister expressed sympathy and condolences to the Saldanha family in Parliament and a Labour MP has called for a full inquiry at the hospital into the events leading up to the nurse's death.

And then, as if further fuel was needed on this particular fire, anti-royalist singer Morrissey came out with a stinging attack on the royal couple, saying they didn't care or feel any particular shame about the death of Saldanha.

Though the Australian radio station should take some culpability for setting off the train of events that led to the suicide of this nurse, I think most people would agree that the Duchess is entirely blameless.

No official complaint was made by the royal couple to the hospital despite the breathtaking breach of security, and indeed some former royal bodyguards have said that had the couple agreed to have the sort of security that surrounded William's mother, there was no way such a call would have got through. A detective took any calls for Diana and screened them. The switchboard at any hospital or hotel was isolated so that receptionists and other staff didn't have to make decisions about who, or who could not, be put through to the royal personage.

But, for all the hand-wringing and blame and counter blame, I can't help feeling that this nurse made a terrible decision.

To kill herself and leave behind a husband and two teenage children, simply for saying, "Putting you through, ma'am", seems an extreme and over-the-top reaction.

She may have been a dedicated nurse, who took her job very seriously.

Media around the world may have been mocking her for being taken in and she may have come from a culture that felt shame very keenly.

But ultimately, she had a family that loved her and colleagues who cared about her. She didn't have to go through this alone. It would have been a nine-day wonder and then this too would have passed. Any culture that says it's fine to kill yourself and leave your family without a wife and mother, simply because of a minor mistake at work, is not a culture I want any part of.


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- Herald on Sunday

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