Duchess Kate’s nurse found dead, and her death is what really matters

Alastair Grant AP Members of the media position themselves, as a policeman stands guard outside the King Edward VII hospital … Continued

Alastair Grant


Members of the media position themselves, as a policeman stands guard outside the King Edward VII hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted with a severe form of morning sickness, in London on Dec. 3, 2012.

By now, you probably know the facts as well as anyone, but just in case: Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to the hospital for severe morning sickness. Australian radio show hosts pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles got one of the duchess’ personal nurses to disclose private information regarding her patient over the phone.

One of the nurses, who transfered the call, Jacintha Saldanha was found dead in her London home Friday, and while the cause is not yet known, Scotland Yard is investigating it as a possible suicide. The story is attracting a huge amount of attention right here in the United States.

Why do we care about the death of an unknown nurse, especially one so far away? Why should we care about this story?

We care because we love stories connected to celebrities. We care because we love the whiff of a morality play, whether it is about the “wicked radio people” who some will surely blame for the death of an innocent young woman, or those who will claim that she was anything but innocent, taking her own life because of the “shame and guilt that grew out of her betrayal of a patient’s privacy” – and a royal patient no less!

View Photo Gallery: The royal couple’s future heir to join the legion of famous royals from various nations.

Of course, all of that is speculation based on the presumption that it was a suicide, which we don’t yet know. But as moral creatures, and creatures who crave justice and balance, we find it hard to resist such presumptions, especially when they involve the celebrities with whom we are obsessed. That is why most people care about this story, and frankly, probably what captured my attention at well, if only on an unconscious level. But it’s not what we should be focusing on, at least not now.

A young woman is dead. It is as simple as that, and before any more analysis – analysis about our celebrity-soaked culture, about the end of privacy in the 21st century, or any of the other lenses through which this story will be seen, including my own just-offered suggestions – I wonder if we shouldn’t simply care because someone has died a tragic death, whether at her own hand or the hand of another.

If we are going to care about this story, can we at least train ourselves to think about the loss of life before anything else?

I know that were the circumstances different, if the story did not involve “royals” or if there was no “betrayal angle” or the suggestion of suicide, the story would get no attention at all. I get that, and I accept that. But before we indulge all of that, perhaps we could all simply acknowledge that the first story, if not the only story here, should be how to cultivate a bit of compassion for the one who has died, regardless of the circumstances.

We will go on loving celebrity stories and morality plays because we are who we are, but imagine if that was the second thing we did. Imagine that we tried to think first, about the person who is gone, before the circumstances which lead to their death.

I am often asked about what it means to practice compassion, and while I don’t have a single easy answer, I am pretty sure that thinking about the person first, and the story second, would be a good place to start.

Related On Faith content about the Duchess of Cambridge:

* Author: Surviving Kate Middleton’s ’s pregnancy disease was a test of faith

* Our lady of hyperemesis gravidarum

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Brad Hirschfield
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  • Mandi1136

    Wow…did someone have a guilty concience when they wrote this? My first and only thought was how bad I feel for that girl when I heard of this story…who gives a crap about “royalty” they are all just people at the end of the day. Skin, blood, flesh and bones…

  • UKbased

    I agree with the first comment. My thoughts were for no-one else but the nurse. How could it be any other way. Your commentator speaks for no-one else but themselves.

  • Vanessa Claire

    We need to stop worshipping “royalty”, like Obama and his wife. A 4 million vacation, while raising taxes?

  • cdmcl3

    (the “young” woman was 46.)

  • Sadetec

    Wow, certainly brings home the possible consequences of these media stunts, doesn’t it !?!

    Have to confess, I was somewhat dismissive of this story when it first broke. I just accepted these childish stunts as part of our broadcasting landscape these days, and was far more concerned about the invasion of privacy caused by the station uploading the recording AFTER it knew the personal nature of the content (don’t care if the subject is a royal or not!)

    We forget that what seems like just a silly prank to a high profile victim can actually thrust ordinary people into the harsh glare of the international media spotlight, and sometimes this can have tragic consequences!

    If I was one of those Australian DJs I’d be thinking about handing my notice in — not as an act of penance, just common human decency. When you pull a practical joke, and the target ends up killing themselves, I think it’s the least you can do if you ever want to look yourself in the mirror again.

  • Tom Watson

    Unfortunately not everyone is up to being the butt of a puerile shock jocks antics, especially if your a mother alone, working along way from home and family, that takes her career very seriously, who is quoted as being ‘a very nerves lady’, the world to some people isn’t one big juvenile laugh, we’re not all thick skinned 20 somethings walking on the sunny side of the street without a care in the world, they (the DJ’s) liked playing with the flame of controversy, and they’ve been burnt, actions = consequences, let it be a lesson to all empty headed morons that think having a laugh at another’s expense is victimless.

  • emilymcla

    This is not the time for political bickering, Vanessa. This tragedy happened on a completely different continent.

  • ppoads

    End this putrid monarchy already before it spans an incredible four generations… Britain call not afford this buffoonery anymore. Shame on the Queen using Low Income Heating and Energy Program ( LIHEAP ) funds to heat her castle too. Lets make Price Harry the beginning of a new bloodline … that mad knows how to party and has questionable links to Lizziebeth’s line.

  • dangh

    Beautifully expressed and true.


  • quietbob

    By including nurse Jacintha Saldanha in their activities I would suggest that the Australian radio station had a duty of care towards her. I would further suggest that sadly they have grossly failed in carrying out that duty. I hope they suffer severe penalties for their cruel selfish actions.

  • britlib

    Who’s Price Harry? A relative of yours?

  • nancydancer

    This article, even in its title – stressed that the most significant thiing, the one that really matters, is the death of the nurse – and the article even calls for respect of that – so,…. in your comment you launch a diatribe and invective on the royal family, without even acknowledging the nurse and her death – did you even read this article, or just see ‘royal’; and decide to express hatred and disgust and ugly images.

  • nancydancer

    And this matters, why? Do you consider 46 to be old?

  • nancydancer

    How about an oounce of compassion and respect for the dead woman and the pain she must have felt, and that her family is going thru – that IS what THIS article is about – did you even read the article, which was about the nurse, NOT politics?? Shame on you

  • rgv1129

    …dust, as we all are.

  • dangh

    Obviously, there are some that neither understands shame nor compassion.

  • dangh

    She was a NURSE– somebody who took care of the sick and dying.

    She was inherently much more than dust.

  • dangh

    Yo, ppoads– c’mon to the other side of the “pond” and join the Republican party and you will be welcomed with open arms. Price Harry will give you a hand up.

  • Alex Lik-tze Pun

    Who says this is about the royalty?
    This article’s assumption is completely off, at least for me and many of us who don’t really give a rat about celebrities or royalty. Like you are saying, all these fuss should be about the death of an innocent and well-meaning woman, who might have taken her job a little bit too seriously. And that’s exactly why we care. This is no innocent prank; forget about the suicide. The DJs reckless behavior could have got a working mother immigrant fired, and THAT’s bad enough already.
    By directing our anger towards the (unwitting) culprits whose negligence probably triggered this tragedy, we may be able to avoid similar event from happening again. It is way more than satisfying our taste for “the whiff of a morality play

  • Daz1

    Crikey – you are all so reactionary. So yeah, thinking about the poor woman who took her life. There has to be a whole lot more going on than just a prank call for a mother to kill herself and leave her children behind. And can’t anyone see how hypocritical everyone is being for pouring vitriol on the two radio DJ’s, When they say that this is what drove the woman to suicide in the frist place. ??
    The two DJ’s played a tasteless prank, definitely. But who researched and released the name of the woman who received the call and who published her photo ?? hmmm.
    The worlds media do need to think about their actions a bit more but blaming these two for what’s happened isn’t right and calling for their blood and heaping invictive and malica upon them is worse than what they did in the first place. Think about it.

  • leibowde84

    The DJs were doing their job (not a very good job of it I might ad, but all the same doing their jobs). The Nurse failed to do hers. She killed herself because of her own pride being shattered by her mistake. If it wasn’t these DJs it would have been someone else trying to get the information. How can you not know that journalists of all sorts would try their best to get their greasy hands on the information.

  • nanzic

    I don’t know about in London, but in the states it is against the law to give out or get private medical info. You can recieve large fines. The DJs wre not doing their job, they were breaking the law. The fact that her very serious mistake was heard around the world I wouldn’t say she took her job a bit to serious. Being made a fool of to the world does seem a bit serious. Shame on the DJs.

  • Kingofkings1

    Some people find it hard to forgive – especially themselves

  • BooRadley

    Can we stop wishing shame on people? Sheesh.