Hospital Prank On the Royal Family Leads to Suicide

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SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348
Hospital Prank On the Royal Family Leads to Suicide

Hospital nurse found dead after prank call on Catherine -

This is so sad!! Should the DJs be held responsible in any way or was it simply a lighthearted prank that had very bad (unintended) consequences?

London (CNN) -- An employee at the hospital that was duped by a prank call from two Australian radio DJs concerning Prince William's pregnant wife, Catherine, has apparently committed suicide, the hospital confirmed Friday.

The employee, a member of the nursing staff, "was recently the victim of a hoax call," King Edward VII Hospital said in a media statement.

The DJs impersonated Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles in the prank call, in which some details of the Duchess of Cambridge's condition and care were given.

Audio of the call posted online suggested a receptionist spoke briefly to the DJs, who host a show for the 2Day FM radio station in Sydney, before the call was put through to a nurse.

The hospital said Wednesday that it deeply regretted the call had been put through early Tuesday morning.

The nurse found dead was the one who first received the prank call and transferred it to the duchess's ward. Her family has been contacted, the hospital said.

The radio show apologized for the call Wednesday, saying it "was done with light-hearted intentions."

The Duchess of Cambridge was discharged from the hospital Thursday after treatment for acute morning sickness.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

Aww, that is so sad. I had read about the prank call. I do not believe it was the fault of the DJ's, but an unfortunate mistake on the part of the nurse. How sad though, that she felt it necessary to take her own life!

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3309

I was just reading about this. Very sad but i really don't think the DJs should be held responsible in any way.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

I agree. Very sad that she felt the need to take her life over something so trivial, but I don't think the DJ's are responsible for it.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3309

I wonder if you can get in trouble there for impersonating someone with the intent of obtaining private medical information.

I don't really care to seek out a punishment for these DJ's...i'm just thinking there could theoretically be grounds for it.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 671

They should get in trouble for impersonating someone.

I felt sorry for the nurse at first, but she volunteered private medical info. She knew she would get fired and/or probably worse.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Yes, I think it was scuzzy what they tried to do but ultimately it was up to her as the nurse to know better than to disclose info.

Although, I can't necessarily say I am familiar with the privacy laws there.

I feel bad that she felt the need to take her life.

smsturner's picture
Joined: 05/11/09
Posts: 1303

Very lousy of the nurse to give out the info, it's too bad she was so distraught over it. So sad.

The dj's are idiots (why on earth would you even want to try that?? what's the point??), but shouldn't be in trouble. I'm sure it will be hard for them to live with anyway. It should be illegal to request confidential patient information.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4111

Though this might have been a trigger, I'm sure she had other problems that had a lot more to do with it than this.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

Responsible for the suicide? No, I don't think the DJs are responsible for that. BUT, and for me this is a big but.....They absolutely should be held accountable for impersonating someone in order to get access to private medical records (the Queen??? If you're going to commit fraud I guess you should go big), and then divulging that private information to the entire friggin world.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3183

"GloriaInTX" wrote:

Though this might have been a trigger, I'm sure she had other problems that had a lot more to do with it than this.

I have to agree. The story doesn't make sense as is.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1683

Is it a crime to try to obtain someone else's medical information regardless of the reason (e.g., a prank)?

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I honestly don't know. I have been looking for it. All I can find is if you falsely present to be someone you are not to obtain them.

All my personal knowledge is from the provider/insurance standpoint that we cannot give out information unless to the person that is asking for them.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 671

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Is it a crime to try to obtain someone else's medical information regardless of the reason (e.g., a prank)?


I can tell you. Having been a CNA, we are not allowed to see there medical chart. We are given the info we need to take care of the person and thats it. It is something you can be fired over. Even taking home a assignment sheet that has ANY info on it is reason to be fired (if they check your bag).

A nurse knows better then to give info to anyone without proper authorization, and i kinda doubt that P. Kate would give auth to her DH's grandmother (even if she's the queen). If someone gives auth, they can do it....but they have to list exactly who can/can't get info.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 671


The police can get your info without a warrant if they think you are a danger to someone or yourself,or if they are investigating a crime.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"Sapphire Sunsets" wrote:


I can tell you. Having been a CNA, we are not allowed to see there medical chart. We are given the info we need to take care of the person and thats it. It is something you can be fired over. Even taking home a assignment sheet that has ANY info on it is reason to be fired (if they check your bag).

A nurse knows better then to give info to anyone without proper authorization, and i kinda doubt that P. Kate would give auth to her DH's grandmother (even if she's the queen). If someone gives auth, they can do it....but they have to list exactly who can/can't get info.

In the US, yes. But is it that way in England?

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 671

found this.

Medical Records (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law) Study Guide & Homework Help -

First and foremost, there is the COMMON LAW concept of "doctor-patient
confidentiality" that binds a medical professional from revealing or disclosing
what he or she may know about a person's medical condition. The professional
duty of confidentiality covers not only what a patient may reveal to the doctor,
but also what a doctor may independently conclude or form an opinion about,
based on his or her EXAMINATION or ASSESSMENT of the patient. Confidentiality
covers all medical records (including x-rays, lab-reports, etc.), as well as
communications between patient and doctor, and generally includes communications
between the patient and other professional staff working with the doctor. Once a
doctor is under a duty of confidentiality, he or she cannot divulge any medical
information to third persons without the patient's consent. There are noteworthy
exceptions to this, discussed below.

At one time (fairly common through the 1970s), a doctor was considered a mere
"custodian" of medical records, which were considered the property of the
patient (because the personal information contained in them related only to the
patient). It was common practice to release to a patient, upon demand, all
original records concerning the patient. However, that practice led to some
patients destroying their medical records, denying that they had received
certain treatments, misrepresenting their conditions for the purpose of
obtaining life or health insurance policies, and (in the case of psychiatric
patients) sometimes becoming a threat to the community at large after learning
what was contained in their records. MEDICAL MALPRACTICE suits and
liability for harm caused to third persons became a paramount issue that drove
the impetus for establishing a refinement of the law (mostly through CASE LAW).

This change has resulted in a clarification that the actual original medical
records belong to those who create or originate them. However, the release to a
patient or to third parties of information contained in the medical records
(about a particular patient) is generally controlled by the patient (with
specific exceptions).

Medical professionals may be required by the request of a patient (or court
order, SUBPOENA, etc.), to produce original documents and records for
inspection, copying, or review. Usually, this is done in a supervised fashion
within the offices or facilities of the creator/originator of the records (the
doctor or medical facility). For all intents and purposes, it is more common for
the original documents to be simply photocopied and forwarded to the patient or
to the party whom the patient designates. It is general practice to not charge
for copying or reproducing if the records are not extensive and are being
requested by the patient, for the patient's own use.

[h=4]Constitutional Right to Privacy[/h]
The fundamental right to privacy, guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, protects against unwarranted invasions of
privacy by federal or state entities, or arms thereof. As early as Roe v.
, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that the
doctor-patient relationship is one which evokes constitutional rights of
privacy. Because the Supreme Court has found that a fundamental right of privacy
exists as to medical information about a person, private causes of action
(against defendants other than federal or state entities) also exist for alleged
violations of privacy rights (e.g., "invasion of privacy"). This right would
extend to the privacy of any medical information contained in medical

But even that right is not absolute, and must be weighed against the state or
federal, or outside interest at stake. For example, in Whalen v. Roe, 429
U.S. 589 (1977), a group of physicians joined patients in a lawsuit challenging
the constitutionality of a New York STATUTE that required physicians to report
to state authorities the identities of patients receiving Schedule II drugs
(controlled substances). The physicians alleged that such information was
protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, and their patients alleged that
such disclosure was an invasion of their constitutional right to privacy. The
Supreme Court did not disagree with the lower court's finding that "the intimate
nature of a patient's concern about his bodily ills and the medication he
takes... are protected by the constitutional right to privacy." However, the
high court concluded (after balancing the state's interests) that "Requiring
such disclosures to representatives of the State having responsibility for the
health of the community does not automatically amount to an impermissible
invasion of privacy."

[h=4]Statutory Privacy Laws[/h]
Despite the above two recognized areas of law that purported to shield
medical information about a person from unauthorized release or disclosure,
there continued to be substantial "gray areas" susceptible to varying
interpretations and applications. For example, do "medical records" include
dental records, pre-employment physical examination records, self-generated
records (documents created or completed by the patients themselves, such as
healthcare questionnaires), birth and death certificates? And what about records
generated by quasi-medical personnel, e.g., physical therapists or mental health
counselors? Further, there appeared to be a developing area of case law that
permitted, in fact demanded, the unauthorized release of medical information
(i.e., against the patient's wishes and/or without the patient's knowledge) if,
without the release, there was a substantial risk of harm to a third person
(e.g. by violence of the patient or by communicable or sexually transmitted

To address these concerns, all fifty states have enacted laws that govern the
release of medical records. They encompass the recognition of any legal
privilege (privileged communications between the health care provider and the
patient), any prerequisites to the release of records (almost all require
patient consent), and the circumstances under which records or information may
be released in the absence of consent.

[h=4]The Federal Privacy Rule[/h]
In the past, physicians could physically secure and shield personal medical
records from disclosure, absent consent from their patients. Electronic
data-banks have changed all that (as foretold by the Supreme Court in
Whalen, above). With the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) (which encouraged electronic transmission of
patient data), Congress passed concurrent legislation for uniform protection of
medical records and personal information. In December 2000, the Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS) published its Privacy Rule ("Standards for
Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information", 65 Fed. Reg. 82462),
which became effective on April 14, 2001. The regulation covers health plans,
health care clearinghouses, and health care providers that bill and transfer
funds electronically. The regulation mandates a final compliance date of April
14, 2003 (small health plans have until April 14, 2004 to comply.) The Privacy
Rule includes provisions for the following:

  • Ensuring patient access to medical records, ability to get copies and/or
    request amendments
  • Obtaining patient consent before releasing information. Health care
    providers are required to obtain consent before sharing information regarding
    treatment, payment, and health care operations. Separate patient authorizations
    must be obtained for all non-routine disclosures and non-health related
    purposes. A history of all non-routine disclosures must be accessible to
  • Providing recourse for violations through an administrative complaint

In March of 2002, the Bush Administration proposed amendments to the Privacy
Rule that would address several complaints registered by patients and medical
facilities alike. Specifically, the impact of the proposed amendments would
remove the requirement for express consent in such communications as pharmacists
filling prescriptions, patient referrals to specialists, treatments provided or
authorized from telephone communications, and emergency medical care. The
relaxed consent requirement would only apply to uses and disclosures for
treatment, payment, and health care operations (TPOs) purposes. All other uses
and disclosures would continue to require express patient consent.

[h=3]Voluntary Consent for Release of Medical Information[/h]
Almost all requests for release of medical records contain a requirement that
patient consent be obtained in writing. Medical providers or custodians of
medical records may or may not accept facsimile (FAX) transmission of
authorizations/signed consent forms. In legal matters, the process may be
simplified by a patient authorizing his or her attorney to obtain copies of
records (or review originals).

[h=3]Waiver of Consent for Release of Medical Information[/h]
There are ways in which a patient may "waive" the confidentiality of medical
records. A common way by filing a lawsuit or claim for PERSONAL INJURY. By doing
so, the patient has put his or her physical condition "at issue" in the lawsuit.
Therefore, the law presumes that the patient has waived all confidentiality
regarding his or her medical condition, and there is an implied authorization to
the patient's doctor for disclosure of all relevant information and medical

[h=3]Involuntary Release of Medical Information[/h]
In recent years, many courts have held that doctors are supposed to protect
third persons who may be harmed by patients. This often results in a duty to
release medical records or medical information without either knowledge or
consent on the part of the patient. For example, without a patient's permission
or knowledge, doctors may warn others or the police if the patient is mentally
unstable, potentially violent, or has threatened a specific person. In some
states, the duty to report or warn others "trumps" the right to confidentiality
or privileged communication with a doctor. Courts will decide these matters by
balancing the sanctity of the confidentiality against the foreseeability of harm
to a third party.

[h=3]Selected Applications[/h]

[h=4]Death Certificates[/h]
Under most state laws, birth and death certificates are a matter of public
record. The advent of physician-assisted suicides in less than a handful of
states (e.g., Oregon) created new concerns for the scope of privacy and
confidentiality. Some states have addressed such matters by express legislation,
e.g., permitting the registration of physician-assisted deaths directly to state
offices rather than to local county offices of vital statistics. Others have
permitted dual-systems that incorporate specific codes for "cause of death" on
public records, but more thorough explanations on private state records. Many
doctors simply list innocuous language, such as "cardiac-respiratory failure,"
on public records, and leave blank the secondary or underlying cause. Similar
issues of limited disclosure often arise on birth records. In some
circumstances, personal details such as PATERNITY, marital status, or
information regarding a newborn's HIV status may WARRANT the filing of dual
records (one requiring more disclosure than the other) for separate purposes and
separate viewers, based on a "need to know" criterion.

[h=4]Disclosures to State or Federal Authorities[/h]
Under most state statutes, doctors and health care providers generally have
duties to report incidence of certain sexually transmitted diseases, CHILD
ABUSE, communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, or other conditions deemed to be risks
to the health and safety of the public at large. Some states have developed
registries to track the incidence of certain conditions, (e.g., certain forms of
cancer) that may later help researchers discover causes. In registry cases,
personal data about the patients is released only to the necessary local, state,
or federal personnel, and the data usually does not contain "patient identifiers".

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 671

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

In the US, yes. But is it that way in England?

They have Hipaa there too. I'm looking at a site right now.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 671

Yes, it is the same. I can't quote cause it goes to a PDF file.

Privacy Policy - UK HealthCare

click on link "Notice of Privacy Policies"

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4099

Has it been proven that she committed suicide? What I saw was that she had an anxiety attack but had been reassured by the hospital that she did nothing wrong. She simply transferred a call and was not facing any discip0line over it. It was a different nurse who provided the medical information.

I don't think the DJs should be prosecuted for anything. Any legal ramifications should be on the person who divulged the private information. I mean, Kate's part of the royal family, people impersonate them all the time, people try to get them pranked all the time, and that nurse was STOOPID to say anything over the phone without ensuring that the person was authorized to get that information. And she didn't say much, really, just that she wasn't "retching" any more (love that word, so British!) and was sleeping on & off, at least she didn't say how far along the pregnancy is or how much weight Kate lost from vomiting or how many bowel movements she'd had that day. I think that's probably why the tape was allowed to air, because it was pretty innocuous.

SID081108's picture
Joined: 06/03/09
Posts: 1348

Of course the hospital is going to say that they didn't punish her or discipline her in any way. I find that hard to believe. They are one of the top hospitals in the UK and are known specifically for their high security. For this to happen to the royal family made THEM look bad and I find it very hard to believe that the employees involved were not at least come down on very hard by upper management. And also, it was my understanding that this was just the nurse that initially transferred the call, NOT the nurse that gave out info.

I do also agree with PP that said that this girl must have had other things going on in her life. I certainly hope an otherwise happy person wouldn't kill themselves over something like this.

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