Jacintha Saldanha Case Study
Business and Management
Submitted By jijiaomian
King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes, established in 1899 with over a century’s worth of history brags about their top notch facilities, professional health consultants and nursing staff, zero occurrence of hospital-acquired MRSA infections and of course, its connection with the royal family (Standards 2013). However, the hospital came face to face with a major crisis when Mel Greig and Michael Christian, hosts of commercial radio station 2Day FM made a prank call to acquire confidential information of one of its patron at the time, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The suicide of Jacintha Saldanha surfaced three days after being the first person to receive the hoax phone call before passing it to the duchess’ private nurse. This essay aims to highlight the ethical implications involved in this case study, the PR strategies taken by the radio station and whether the actions taken are appropriate in regards to the death of the British nurse.
When the Jacintha’s case of suicide arose, the ultimate question was: Why did she turn to suicide? Despite previous records of Jacintha’s suicide attempts (Taher 2012), it was reported that she had no signs of mental frailness at the time of her work shift before she received the prank call (Sykes 2012). While it remains unclear if the hoax call drove Jacintha suicidal, it may have acted as a catalyst (Baker 2012) since a note containing expression of anger addressed to the two radio hosts was found after Jacintha’s death (Johnson 2012). The ethical implications ensued involves multiple parties including King Edward VII’s Hospital itself. The hospital holds the responsibility to keep records of patients confidential. Privacy is everyone’s right and should not be deprived of having it. The breach of the Duchess’ privacy occurred as Jacintha, a staff nurse had allowed the hoax call to go through. The situation should be looked from the perspective of Jacintha’s job description. A nurse is present to assist a doctor and to cater to the patients’ needs. There should be no need for Jacintha to take on the tasks of taking phone calls given that the hospital had a definite person to be a receptionist. Thus, Jacintha’s job description was unclear (Totaro and Wainwright 2012). With assumptions made, this tragic incident may not have happened if Jacintha was not required to multitask.
On the other hand, the consequences of conducting prank calls were not thoroughly considered. Remorse is shown by an aired apology by the said radio hosts; however, they brought up repeatedly that such tragedy was not foreseen. What are the agendas of prank calls exactly? Taking an example from a local radio station in Malaysia, hitz.fm has a similar program called Gotcha!. Prank calls are being conducted on request by friends or family of the prank call victims. The purpose of such calls is purely of comedial means. Similarly, what was the agenda of the prank call towards the Duchess? Claims from the radio DJs are stated to be harmless, but it is undeniable that once the radio station establishes a connection with a royalty and elicits confidential information, the number of radio subscribers would multiply. Since there was the element of anger portrayed towards the radio DJs, it was mostly their responsibility to compensate for the loss of Jacintha’s life.
Assuming that Jacintha was indeed mentally stable, guilt could have caused her to take her life for she was responsible of connecting the hoax call which led to abusing the Duchess’ right to privacy. The hospital and the radio station both share responsibility of Jacintha’s death. They are likely to be guilt-driven to take action and to compensate. Close attention must be put into the process of decision making in this case as different ethical judgments are involved.
2Day FM managed the crisis by announcing that they will return all advertising to their clients and the profits garnered from Thursday onwards until year end would be donated to the victim’s family. After the incident, the radio hosts are taken off air. Additionally, they too had a self-imposed suspension, termination of the radio program and put an end to the conduction of prank calls (Ross 2012). It all sounds apt especially when the radio station had promised a minimum amount of $500,000 for the family; yet proper dates were not mentioned, giving the impression that the period of compiling advertising profits to be donated seemed lengthy. In reality, the prank call was received on 4 December, 2012 and all advertising profits for donation were to be from 6 December until 31 December, 2012. That was only a mere 3 weeks to accumulate a minimum of $500,000 in donation. The vague announcement strives to sugar coat, providing a more pleasant presentation for crisis management.
It is difficult to put a price on one’s life; nevertheless, monetary support can be helpful in the time of grief. Although the monetary support by the radio station was nothing short of appropriate, the concern falls onto the source of the funds. The radio hosts may have caused the death of Jacintha indirectly, the donation for the family on the other hand did not come out of their own pockets (Ross 2012). The decision to donate their profits shows incompetency and the lack of commitment in taking up responsibility for the nurse’s death. In this form of decision making, the radio station practiced consequential ethics. Emphasis was put on the result of the prank call, cleaning up the mess of the PR crisis in order to salvage the station’s reputation, leaving less room for the consideration on their actions alone. Pranks calls are not necessarily in the context of illegal and unethical actions and often it leaves harmless amusement. Nonetheless, high profile individuals were involved to which the consequences should be thought thorough before any action is taken. The prank call would not necessarily benefit anyone in particular. At most, the radio station would gain short term popularity.
The coverage of mass media covers from Jacintha’s personal struggles in the past to actions taken by the family against the hospital and the radio station. The family issued 40 and 20 questions to each responsible party respectively and received no response. The hospital indicated that answers would be provided after an internal inquisition while the parent company of 2Day FM had not attempted to contact the family (Taher 2013). Since then, Southern Cross Austereo has been under fire by criticisms from the public internationally. King Edward VII Hospital released a statement saying that in no way was Jacintha penalized for her mistake and that she was “an excellent nurse and well-respected and popular with all of her colleagues” (Duchess of Cambridge 2012). The hospital followed up with their expression of condolences, but failed to acknowledge that they played a part in Jacintha’s death.
On the contrary, there is not much attention paid towards Kate Middleton’s private nurse whom the call was transferred to and the person who disclosed information on Kate’s condition in the hospital. Jacintha’s error was simply allowing the call to go through. Unlike the private nurse, Jacintha did not leak any information on the Duchess. Unfortunately, Jacintha suffered the most burdens and possibly cracked under pressure. In contrast, it is commendable that the hospital took the initiative to protect the anonymity of the private nurse without further ado (Twomey 2013). The media is information hungry and putting the private nurse in the spotlight may result in the same fate as Jacintha Saldanha. The public was greatly sympathetic as mourners gathered in great numbers at her funeral (Jacintha Saldanha Funeral 2012).
Room for improvement persists though Southern Cross Austereo’s take on its public relations management is in the right direction to manage the crisis. I insist on doing more than what was done by SCA because no amount of financial aid and actions can pardon the company from being blamed. Satterfield and Squire (2012, 70) listed four articles to carry out crisis management and public relations successfully: message, media, monitoring and metrics. First of all, the message to be released to the public should be simple and precise. Aside from mentioning the stakeholders involved, assurance should be given to the public that there will be no reoccurrence of a similar tragedy. Being the company that employs these radio hosts, media training should be arranged so that the hosts are fit to cope with the press. I wish to highlight even though both radio hosts, Mel Grieg and Michael Christian had released a tearful apology publicly in an interview, they were short of a spokesperson to represent them professionally. Furthermore, follow up has to be carried out as crisis management is an ongoing process. Media monitoring would be helpful to respond readily to the mass media and the public should any doubts arise. A set up of metrics serves as a guideline to effectively measure the impact and to assess the effectiveness of a crisis management action. Proper evaluation assists in better managing predicaments in the future.
Not to mention, SCA failed to provide an overall picture of the issue. Information was selectively given hence it is incomplete. During the Tylenol scare, the CEO was able to provide accurate information and announced it once and for all to all stakeholders including the media (Peters-Hickey 1990). A quick response to tragedies can save the company from long term damages. Lastly, I believe both SCA and 2Day FM failed to see the need for a long term commitment to relief the strain brought onto the company’s reputation. Personal involvement with the community like an awareness campaign on depression and suicides or an organization set up to aid similar victims financially will regain the trust of the public and safeguard the standing of the company in the long run (Peters-Hickey 1990).
Baker, Katie J.M. 2012. Who’s to Blame for British Nurse Jacintha Saldanha’s Suicide? Jezebel. http://jezebel.com/5967121/whos-to-blame-for-british-nurse-jacintha-saldanhas-suicide. Duchess of Cambridge: Prank Call Nurse Found Dead. 2012. Metro. http://metro.co.uk/2012/12/07/employee-at-duchess-of-cambridge-hospital-jacintha-saldanha-found-dead-3306622/. Jacintha Saldanha Funeral: Hundreds Attend Service For Royal Hoax Call Nurse In India. 2012.
The Huffington Post United Kingdom. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/17/jacintha-saldanha-india-funeral-hundreds-attend_n_2314736.html.
Johnson, Wesley. 2012. Prank call nurse 'In Previous Suicide Attempt'. The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9763845/Prank-call-nurse-in-previous-suicide-attempt.html. Peters-Hickey, Lois. 1990. "Public Relations: How Will You Strike Back if a Media Crisis
Strikes?" CNY Business Journal 4 (12): 10-10. http://search.proquest.com/docview/219237134?accountid=10382.
Ross, Madeleine. 2012. Blood Money Or Right Move? PR Experts Debate 2Day FM's Donation
Pledge. BandT. http://www.bandt.com.au/news/media/blood-money-or-right-move-pr-experts-debate-2day-f.
Satterfield, Jim and Jim Squire. 2012. "Coming through a Public Relations Crisis
Successfully." Franchising World 44 (11): 70-71. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1220744477?accountid=10382.
Standards. 2013. King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes. Accessed April 2, http://www.kingedwardvii.co.uk/standard.cfm. Sykes, Tom. 2012. No Sign That "Quiet And Shy" Kate Middleton Suicide Nurse Was Unstable
Before Prank Call. The Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/08/no-sign-that-quiet-and-shy-kate-middleton-suicide-nurse-was-unstable-before-prank-call.html.
Taher, Abul. 2012. Radio Prank Call Nurse Jacintha Saldanha. News.com.au. http://www.news.com.au/world-news/radio-prank-call-nurse-jacintha-saldanha-on-anti-depressants-after-two-suicide-attempts/story-fndir2ev-1226542581126. Taher, Abul. 2013. Family Of Suicide Nurse Ask Hospital 40 Questions But Get No Answers.
Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2261475/Family-suicide-nurse-Jacintha-Saldanha-ask-hospital-40-questions-NO-answers.html.
Totaro, Paola and Robert Wainwright. 2012. Jacintha Saldanha's Tragic Reaction To A Prank
Call. The Weekend Australian Magazine. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/jacintha-saldanhas-tragic-reaction-to-a-prank-call/story-e6frg8h6-1226602751238.
Twomey, Rebecca. 2013. Kate Middleton’s Nurse Granted Anonymity For Jacintha Saldanha
Inquest. Marie Claire. http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/news/world/541726/kate-middleton-s-nurse-granted-anonymity-for-jacintha-saldanha-inquest.html#index=1.