Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Did The Australian DJs Kill The British Nurse?

For the last few days I've been listening to the ongoing sage of the nurse in England who killed herself over information she mistakenly gave out to a couple of radio DJs in Australia who made a prank call to the hospital where Kate Middleton was admitted.  The DJs pretended to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and the nurse apparently believed them and unknowingly gave them updated information on Kate's condition over the air.  A day or two later, once the hoax was discovered, the nurse killed herself.

What I find most interesting is the number of people who are not only condemning the DJs for their actions but blaming them for the nurse's suicide.  The DJs have been fired from their jobs and will most likely never work in radio again because a seemingly practical joke ended tragically.  But who's fault is it, really?

Radio DJs have been making prank calls on the air for as long as I can remember.  It's done in the name of entertainment and fun.  This call to the hospital was simply that - a prank.  No  life changing information was given out by the nurse and while the nurse did release private information about Kate and probably would have faced some sort of disciplinary action over it, her actions were understandable given the fact that she truly believed she was talking to the Queen of England.  The fact that she killed herself over it,  leaving two small children behind, to me indicates she had underlying problems that led to such a desperate act.  And I don't think the DJs are at fault for that.

I was listening to Mark Davis this morning - a well known conservative radio talk show host in Dallas who I really enjoy.  He was saying the same thing I'm saying with one exception - he says he is very angry at the DJs for making the  prank call.  I can't share that sentiment.  I watched an interview with the two DJs last night and they both wept while they spoke of the incident and how badly they wish they could take it back.  And I believe them.  And decent human being would feel terrible about someone committing suicide over something they were involved in.  But are they at fault?  I don't think so.

Emotional instability is impossible to predict.  The DJs did nothing that was physically harmful to anyone involved.  I've seen practical jokes played on people (even on TV) that could easily result in physical harm to someone.  I've seen jokes played on people who, if they were emotionally unstable, could react very badly.  But who is at fault for that emotional reaction?  If a person is mentally unstable they may not be responsible for their actions.  But who can tell?  And if they are not mentally unstable but have difficulties no one knows of and they react in the most dangerous and serious way possible, taking their own life or that of someone else, are they themselves not ultimately responsible?  Can we really blame one person (or in this case, two) for the action of another?  Will we eventually become a society where no one is allowed to joke with another and practical jokes become outlawed because someone, somewhere, might react badly?  I certainly hope not.

Of course, this is only my personal opinion and I'm sure some will disagree with me.  I have no mental health degree or license.  I do, however, have plenty of experience working with and evaluating the mental and emotional stability of people.  Anyone who works (or who worked) in corrections and law enforcement, as well as the medical field, gains that experience over time.  I don't think I'm that far off.

I welcome the opinion of anyone who disagrees.  Please let me know if I'm wrong and why you think so.  But please be detailed - don't just say "because the nurse is dead."  That much I know.  My goal is  to determine who should  be held accountable for it - the DJs or the nurse.

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