UK hospital says royal prank call appalling after nurse death

Sat Dec 8, 2012 5:36pm EST
 
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By Tim Castle and Morag MacKinnon

LONDON/PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - The London hospital that treated Prince William's pregnant wife Kate condemned on Saturday an Australian radio station that made a prank call seeking information about the duchess, after the apparent suicide of a nurse who answered the phone.

There has been renewed soul-searching over media ethics after Jacintha Saldanha, 46, the nurse who was duped by the station's call to the King Edward VII hospital, was found dead in staff accommodation nearby on Friday.

The owners of Sydney's 2DayFM said it had done nothing wrong and no one could have foreseen the tragic outcome of the stunt, but two leading Australian firms suspended their advertising.

The hoax, in which the radio hosts - posing as Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles despite Australian accents - successfully inquired after Kate's medical condition, has made worldwide headlines.

The hospital's chairman Lord Glenarthur urged the station's owners to ensure that such an incident could never happen again.

"It was extremely foolish of your presenters even to consider trying to lie their way through to one of our patients, let alone actually make the call," he said in a letter to Southern Cross Austereo Chairman Max Moore-Wilton.

"Then to discover that, not only had this happened, but that the call had been pre-recorded and the decision to transmit approved by your station's management, was truly appalling."

The immediate consequence had been the humiliation of two "dedicated and caring" nurses, he said. "The longer term consequence has been reported around the world and is, frankly, tragic beyond words," Glenarthur added.   Continued...

 
A private ambulance is loaded with a body at the block of flats where the nurse Jacintha Saldanha lived near the King Edward VII Hospital in central London on December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris