Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Is Modern Society To Blame?

King Edward V11 hospital

How could a hoax telephone call cause the death of Mrs Saidanha, a well respected nurse at London's King Edward V11 hospital?

The answer isn't known, but what is known is that Mrs Saidanha took her work very seriously and she was extremely proud to work in the hospital which caters for the British royals.

It appears Mrs Saidanha came to Britain nine years ago and was the mother of two daughters. The hoaxers appeared on Australian television yesterday, weeping and wailing about their plight. The stupid pair know full well they acted irresponsibly and, as happens far too often today, never for one minute considered the consequences of their 'joke'.  "We didn't think we'd get through to Kate," uttered the male DJ.  That's the problem - they didn't think.  Their television interview appeared to me to be a plea for their jobs.

Apart from the tragedy of Mrs Saidanha's death, the incident has shown failings within the private hospital.

  • Why did Mrs Saidanha answer the telephone?  
  • Was there no duty telephonist on during the night hours?
  • If Mrs Saidanha was the first point of contact for any telephone callers had she been trained in dealing with enquiries?
The two DJs were quick to say they expected their false accents to be immediately obvious, but they never considered a person with English as a second or even third language may answer the call.  Very probably Mrs Saidanha was unaware their accent was anything other than a variety of the English accent.

When discussing this with a retired senior nurse yesterday her point of blame - apart from the juvenile behaviour of the DJs - lies with the King Edward V11 hospital.  All NHS hospitals are aware of the procedures to protect patient confidentiality. Why do such procedures not apply to the private medical sector?  

My sympathy lies with Mrs Saidanha. She worked and lived away from her home and children in order to provide for her family.   By all accounts she was a quiet, dedicate nurse and mother who possibly felt an overwhelming sense of shame at her inability to detect fools. She was so humiliated she was unable to speak to any of her family about her distress.

The Australian radio station must also share blame for Mrs Saidanha's death because they employ people who think such 'jokes' would be 'fun'.

What type of society have we become when people think that telephoning a hospital, in the middle of the night, and posing as a patient's relative is 'fun'? That is apart from the fact they recorded the call without the receiver's permission and with the intention of publicising it throughout the world.


Anonymous said...

This has been a sad tragedy and the blame?

I'd be inclined to suggest that the hospital bears a large part of the responsibility for the DJ's being able to get through. That was the first line of defense if you like.

The hospital will be signed up for the Data Protection Act and is responsible for making sure that staff are trained on and aware off how they maintain data security.

Part of the data security is, of course, how incoming calls are answered, what sort of information is requested from the caller and what sort of information is provided to the caller.

The DJs should not have been able to make a call to the hospital surely? Would the security people not have had a secure line set up for family to call? No password in place as verification?

Lots to consider.

Sometimes the sum of events play out in a way which randomly works out far better or worse than the intent.

No matter what, it's a sad outcome.


Joe Public said...

Like you Rosie, my sympathy lies with Mrs Saidanha.


Everything so far is speculation; and, much is speculation by those with a 'hidden' agenda.

FWIW - here's my speculation:

There were other things playing on Mrs Saidanha's mind, and the hoax simply pushed her over the edge. If that is the case, then they're unlikely to be acknowledged, because now we have a pair of scapegoats already receiving public opprobrium.

Practical Jokes have been carried out for centuries, and will continue to do so.

The vast majority of your older readers will have been amused by David Nixon's 'Candid Camera'. Beadle & Jolly continued the format.

JRB said...

A tragic case and our sympathies must be with Mrs Saidanha's family.

The two young DJs are the typical 'shock-jock' presenters who broadcast 'on the edge' radio in attempt to attract a listening audience.
Being young foolish, immature and somewhat naive, to them this was merely another ‘prank’ - but any prank by its very nature relies on the pointless humiliation of a hapless victim – this time there were to be tragic consequences.

The very use of the ‘prank’ as an acceptable means of entertainment must raise the question of the morals and ethics of the broadcaster, for let us not forget this pre-recorded prank was passed fit for transmission by the broadcaster’s legal advisors who saw it fit to humiliate an innocent party on air.

But all of this raises a topic very much relevant here in the UK at this time.

The Australian press and media enjoy what is being vociferously sought here in the UK - ‘press freedom’ and ‘self regulation’.
Self control in Australia has become, as is evident, so laxed so lacking in moral or ethical constraints as to have little or no meaning.
The body which should oversee things 'The Australian Communications and Media Authority' is as effective as the proverbial chocolate teapot.

If ever there was evidence, if evidence was needed, that the press and media need legal statute to underpin the controls that govern their ethical and moral standards then this tragic case is it.

Woodsy42 said...

I have sympathy of course for Mrs Saidanha and her family, it was a tragic outcome.
But the original reports (now seemingly forgotten) also said that although she answered the call she had put it through to someone else. Which suggest she may not even have breached patient privacy and that she had acted quite sensibly given the apparent lack of hospital protocols and procedures.
So she did nothing wrong, she wasn't being blamed, and there were no serious adverse consequences to what she did. Even Prince Charles joked about it in an interview the following day.
People have always played practical jokes, and I hope they always will. I don't believe the DJs had any agenda to do any harm.
I feel there must be something else here that we don't know which made Mrs Saidanha so fragile and vunerable and created such a tragic outcome.

pa_broon74 said...

I'd have to agree with Joe on this, its tragic all round and to varying degrees, specifically for the family of the nurse and to a much lesser extent the DJ's involved who couldn't possibly have foreseen this outcome.

There is a degree of irresponsibility in any prank, that is what makes it what it is. I don't believe for a second the DJ's set out to get a person killed and I don't think when they say they thought they'd never get through is that far fetched.

Entertainment is their job, while I'm not a fan of pranks like this I get that it goes on and on rare occasions it goes too far, in this case, outwith the control of anyone involved; it went far to far.

I suppose the DJ's did this to themslelves when they chose to do what they did, however, I can't bring myself to think they deserve everything they're getting, life is rarely that neat.

Personally, I blame the press, I wonder if Mrs Saidanha felt so wretched because of what she felt the reaction of the press would be, and I think we can all agree, when it comes to the royal family in general and William and Kate in particular; the press behave in a way that is hard to describe by any normal measure of human behaviour.

Beyond that, as there was with Jonathon Ross and Russel Brand and now this, there is a lot of faux gnashing of teeth and wailing at the moon. Scapegoats must be had in order for the press to package things up neatly and present it for sale to the desperately grasping public.

Unfortunate things happen and while people may be responsible, it doesn't necessarily mean they deserve to be villified for it.

Macheath said...

Woodsy - she may have 'done nothing wrong' but she must have felt guilty about passing the call to the nurse who did give out information.

The way the radio station crowed over the result must have been extremely painful to both nurses but Mrs Saldanha would have had the added burden of exposing her colleague to humiliation and possible disciplinary action.

It's a great shame the radio hosts didn't come out straight away and say that they never expected to be put through and all they were after was 'a 20-second segment to air of us doing funny voices', instead of describing it as 'a career high' and publicly celebrating their own cleverness.

That way, perhaps Mrs Saldanha might have had more public sympathy and fewer comments on her gullibility; I doubt she would have been able to resist reading media coverage and, whether she took her own life or not, the lack of sympathy in many of the comments must inevitably have caused her a great deal of stress.

Brian said...

From my own experience, if a trained switchboard operator is unavailable, senior management will cover the gap with the first responsible person available whose absence his colleagues could cover. Handover in my case involved a five minute demo of the software, the proper salutation (branding is so important)and a new pair of headphone covers. Then it was Radio Brian for the next two hours. I was lucky because it was the afternoon, not early morning, and didn't make any major errors.
However,as I have the advantage of English as my first language; I would have been able to detect bad Royal Family impressions immediately. Conversely, I would be unable to detect if someone was pretending to be the Indian President, unless they spoke with a Welsh accent.
Didn't these Aussies ever learn in infants school that people can react unpredictably to things that were "only a joke"? Whatever they said, jokes are never funny when repeated in court.

English Pensioner said...

As usual these days we get the response "We never thought that .......".
That is the big trouble these days, people just don't think . They are just concerned with their own immediate agenda and give no thought, by their own admission, to any consequences of their action.
This doesn't only apply to these Australian idiots, but to people like the interviewer on ITV who handed over a list of alleged paedophiles "I didn't think someone might be able to read it". The list of offenders is endless (and includes most MPs), people seem to have given up thinking. My generation were taught never to do anything important without considering the consequences.

Demetrius said...

The nurse was a very busy lady and tragically took something on trust from people who could not be trusted. There are other matters however. The Duchess was very ill with a potentially highly dangerous condition and there were two lives at stake. Whoever and whatever she and her family are it was not a situation for "pranks" and "fun". Add to that the grossly tasteless cartoons in The Mail and the Independent which have escaped comment. My view is that both their editors should be sacked, never mind the broadcasters.

subrosa said...

TT, as I said in the post my nursing friend says the hospital failed in their protection of any patient's interests.

She also remarked the importance of this is continually stressed in NHS hospitals. I remember once trying to find out about my mother in Ninewells and because she had put her cousin as next of kin, I was refused any information.

subrosa said...

I have to disagree with you Joe as I can understand that such an incident could send someone over the top.

The woman was dedicated and, by all accounts, very proud of her position which was caring for - among others - royals. Her neighbours called her the 'royal nurse'. Her work was obviously extremely important to her and also the place of work. She had worked for the NHS in Bristol previously but obviously thought the Edward V11 was the creme de la creme.

It could be, that according to her mindset, that she'd betrayed the royals by putting the call through.

We all have other problems but it's usually 'the one' which pushes us that bit too far.

Candid camera etc never used hospitals I don't think and also nothing was broadcast until everyone involved gave their permission.

subrosa said...

An excellent argument JRB and yes, it does highlight several points.

subrosa said...

Maybe Mrs Saidanha didn't quite see it that way Woodsy. She may have thought she'd betrayed her patient by just redirecting the call.

subrosa said...

Oh I don't think their prank intended anything other than to boost their standing as jokers pa_broon, but using a hospital is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Part of the problem is that the call was broadcast and her permission wasn't sought. That, I suppose, is when she discovered her humiliation.

A little humiliation for the DJs won't do them any harm. They may even learn from it and grow up.

subrosa said...

Very well said Macheath.

subrosa said...

A good point Brian and one which I perhaps should have expanded. I know when I worked in Germany that I often found it difficult to differentiate between the Austrians and Swiss Germans as they too spoke German but with accents.

subrosa said...

Aye EP, that's my main point of the post. You put it so much better.

subrosa said...

I haven't seen the cartoons Demetrius and won't bother looking for them.

Aye, what mentality would think it was 'fun' to phone a hospital?

Apogee said...

We should remember that this lady was raised and educated in India, a country that instils considerably more dignity in its people than we seem to manage. It seems she was not aware that all communications would be handled by the Royal security, most of us would take that as a given,but she didn't have "local knowledge" to fall back on, and she believed she was talking to royalty,a great honour to her, and she was trying to do her job as best she could. To then find she had been tricked by a couple of "drongos!,dumbasses as the yanks call them, would be a terrible insult, not just to her but her family.We might be able to laugh it off, but with the feeling the whole
world was laughing at her,or you ,are you so sure?
As for the radio station, claimed to be part of a network of 80. They have been constantly jumped on by the Australian regulators and seemingly were on their last warning!They deliberately hired "presenters"with the attitude of this pair.They think this gets them
"ratings". The management are totally irresponsible and should lose their licence. That pair are only worried that they wont get another job, they should never have been let loose near a microphone in the first place.
Consider a similar thing, A drunk goes out in a car, hits another car and kills a woman and injures her family. Didn't intend to do it,very sorry etc, but would still do time for it.
Maybe she killed herself , but she could see no way out, just like the hypothetical woman in the car,trying to evade the drunk, except she wasn't hypothetical.

Woodsy42 said...

"Maybe Mrs Saidanha didn't quite see it that way Woodsy. She may have thought she'd betrayed her patient by just redirecting the call."

Clearly she did SR, that's the tragedy of the situation. But as far as I know absolutely nobody suggested she should feel guilty or reinforced that feeling. I don't think the DJs could have predicted such an outcome and I don't read any malicious intent into their behaviour.

JimS said...

Is pa_broon the only one picking up on the press HERE? What about the BBC? News bulletin after news bulletin they carried an audio clip from the Australian broadcast. Now they are looking to pass blame elsewhere.

I think there is probably more in this that we will never know. Did the nurse have other problems? What was her perception of what MIGHT happen (she might not have been disciplined but the hanging sword can be a terrible thing)?

Why did Keith Vaz get involved? MP for Leicester but she worked in London and her family lived in Bristol.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

One question. Did the hospital laugh it off, or was she subject to a diatribe from a superior jobs-worth?

As mentioned earlier the press and broadcasters were not exactly discreet in there use of innuendo and reference to protocol.

Alec said...

We should remember that this lady was raised and educated in India, a country that instils considerably more dignity in its people than we seem to manage.


Apart from the caste system. Her Indian background could, however, be relevant in that it would mean she was exceptionally unlikely to be able to distinguish from bona fide English accents and a couple of Aussies effecting a mock English accent.

Another target for appropriation of culpability should be the BBC and Sky who cheerfully played and replayed the recording. That is more likely to have contributed to Saldanha's intense shame than the knowledge that she took the call.


subrosa said...

Excellent contribution Apogee and many thanks.

subrosa said...

See Apogee's comment above Woodsy.

subrosa said...

I didn't know it had been broadcast on the BBC Jim.

Read Apogee's comment above. That explains my opinion better than I do myself.

Keith Vaz is an opportunist.

subrosa said...

It hasn't been made public what the hospital did Crinkly.

subrosa said...

As I said above Alec I didn't realise the recording had been publicised on the media here. Shocking.

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