All fun and games until...

Posted By: John Downs · 12/7/2012 6:07:00 PM

A couple of clips from a Brazilian hidden-camera show are making the rounds on YouTube. In both cases, unsuspecting victims are told to take an elevator to a certain floor. On the ascending ride, the elevator appears to stall.

In one scenario, the lights flicker before going out. A few seconds later, the room is illuminated again, but the victim is no longer alone. A haggard, wild-haired girl wearing a hospital gown clutches a doll and stares at the victim, then shrieks.

In the other clip, the victim boards the elevator, followed by men loading items for a funeral. After wheeling in a casket – leaving it upright – they exit to fetch other items. Before they can get back on, the doors slide shut. Once again, the elevator stalls and the lights flicker. This time the lights stay on, but the top half of the casket lid can't contain its contents any longer. A corpse tumbles from the box, doubled over the bottom half of the lid. Cue the terrified screams. 

In case after case, the victims look as if they have experienced the most frightening episodes of their lives. They furiously press every button on the elevator keypad. They scratch at the doors. One man actually pries them open with his bare hands.

After watching the footage with the girl, my first thought was: “That's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.” My second thought was: “They'd never be able to pull that off in the United States.” You can be assured victims would sue everyone even remotely associated with the program for causing mental anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One has to assume that the people who ended up appearing in the show consented to the footage being aired. They're either really good sports, or were offered something in exchange for their co-operation. Or both. But as funny and over-the-top as this show is, at its heart, the prank is mean.

Which brings us to a posh London hospital. A nurse finds herself answering a phone call from a person she believes to be the Queen. She passes it on to another staff member, who then provides confidential information about the status of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, admitted earlier in the week with severe morning sickness.

The conversation was a gag – the work of a radio morning-show team in Australia (who later said they never imagined they'd pull off the ruse, let alone see the story go viral).

And just after we had all enjoyed our final chuckle at the nurse's naïveté, we learned she had taken her own life.

So who's to blame? The nurse, who made the error and overreacted to the subsequent humiliation? The radio jocks who made the nurse look like an unprofessional idiot? Or all of us who enjoyed a laugh at the expense of someone we didn’t know? Without question, the answer is a combination of the latter two.

It’s easy to relate to the feelings of the nurse. Have you ever returned to a gathering – say, a dinner table or an office meeting – where everyone knows what's going on except you? At first they giggle and chuckle because they’re in on the joke and you’re not. It's mildly embarrassing. When the group’s laughter can no longer be contained, they explode into howls, snorts and even tears. This time, knowing it’s all at your expense, it’s simply humiliating.

We usually associate power with money or social status. But the truth is, “scientia potentia est.” (Here's hoping saying it in Latin makes it sound less cliché.)

Knowledge is more powerful than any other human asset. With it come the skills and information to save lives, earn wealth and manipulate others for your own benefit. Knowledge is the source of many negative traits of humanity. We use it to steal, blackmail, shirk social duties and ridicule others.

No one could have predicted the nurse would have reacted to her public humiliation in such a tragic way. But when you take into account the scale of the embarrassment, you can hardly claim to be so surprised. Imagine the biggest error you've ever made being broadcast across the planet.

We'd be kidding ourselves if we thought jokes made in good fun will stop being funny. But this episode should remind us that jokes can have serious consequences – some of them deadly.

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  1. Sally posted on 12/07/2012 06:56 PM
    Unfortunately the hospital she worked for has implied that her death may be attributed to the "prank" call she transferred. Throughout the day the media has attributed her death to the joke played on her by the radio hosts. Many years ago an intruder was able to enter the palace and enter the Queen's living area. Several of her employees were fired over this security breach. However, none of them committed suicide. Not knowing much about this nurse's life prior to the prank call she received is it fair to jump to the conclusion that the call directly caused her death or were there other factors that we are yet unaware of. Possibly a history of mental illness. I hate tunnel vision.
  2. Paula ,Oxford (UK) posted on 12/10/2012 03:58 PM
    Dear dedicated DJ,
    Calling any of the emergency services/Hospitals to make a prank call to boost your ratings !?!?!? I think shockjocks might wish to look for other career options!!! and it has been confirmed no authorisation was given by the Hospital to broadcast this Prank. Also requesting information whilst impostering to be someone related to any patient (let alone Queen Lisbet II) is breaking the law (here in the UK) . Poor Nurse Saldhana, globally humiliated some might relish in their 5minute of fame, but some of us do take pride in our job of helping others ! Shame this Radio station took the route to delight themselves to mock a highly respected Profession ! I do feel sorry for the DJ's (to a degree) but theirs and the Radio stations poor judgement has caused anguish and pain all round! Humiliation is a form of bullying, and some of us are more sensitive in this world than others!!!! Nurse Jacintha took the call, but the Station "chose" to ignore the rules of Broadcasting standards, and chose to breach privacy laws and Broadcasted without authorisation. It was out of Nurse Jacintha's hands at this point!
    1. calvinhc posted on 12/12/2012 04:34 PM
      @Paula ,Oxford (UK) This would be a credible chastization if it were written in the 24-hour-or-so window between when the story about the prank broke and the story about the suicide broke.

      Most of the world thought the call was great fun until word about the suicide came out, then a great many number of people jumped from the "that is hilarious" bandwagon to the "that is appauling" bandwagon.

      Paula, better go look for more open gates to close now that the horses are gone.
  3. calvinhc posted on 12/12/2012 09:19 AM
    No argument that pranks can be humiliating, but generally speaking, no stable person commits suicide over a prank. Furthermore, Saldhana only transferred the call to someone else, and though she may have felt shame for doing so, it would seem that would pale in comparison to the level of shame that the second nurse felt who actually gave details and had her voice the centre of attention when the call was aired. Did she commit suicide?

    The reasons behind why one commits suicide are very complex, and it concerns me that a hospital would employ a person with severe mental health issues without at least attempting to provide assistance. I find it extremely difficult to accept that none of her co-workers nor her immediate family had no idea this could occur from something like a prank call. If it weren't the prank call, it would have been something else that likely would not have been known in the media. She has been referred to as "Nurse Saldhana", which is even more concerning that a hosipital would have an unstable performing such health care related work.

    To be fair, there is one possibility besides a mental health that could explain this, but in this politically correct world few will speak of it: a cultural reason. As I understand it from media reports, this woman was from India. Much of the world is unaware of a problem in India called "Eve Teasing" (see for details). This is basically sexual harassment in public of a woman, sometimes just crude comments, and sometimes touching or grabbing. To be sure, these are bad things and are humiliating to a woman, but few in the western world would be compelled to commit suicide if this occurred to them. In India, far too often suicide is seen as the only remedy for the humiliation caused by Eve Teasing.

    Could this same line of thinking have driven Saldhana to suicide?
  4. Mike posted on 12/13/2012 06:12 PM
    Those DJ's did nothing is those stupid phucking ROYALS that are the problem...who the phuck cares if the latest royal bitch had morning sickness or for that matter up the stump!!!!!!!!!!!! The nurse was a fool to put the call through in the first place...i'm so sick and tired of hearing the DJ's did wrong and lost their jobs..that is SICKENING not the fact that some mentally unstable nurse hung herself!
    1. calvinhc posted on 12/15/2012 10:44 AM
      @Mike It is now coming out that the nurse left THREE suicide notes, one that criticize hospital management for their reaction towards employees involved.

      Earlier news reports described how the head of the hospital sent a chastising letter to the radio station. I suspected it was a CYA move, and now I know it was.
  5. bills posted on 09/27/2013 08:59 PM
    I have been looking for good caskets in Chicago, IL. I think I found what I am looking for.
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