Andreas Lubitz: A Year After Germanwings Tragedy Brings The Topic Of Pilot Mental Health Back To The Front Page

Andreas Lubitz: A Year After, Germanwings Tragedy Brings The Topic Of Pilot Mental Health Back To The Front Page

Almost a year after Andreas Lubitz committed suicide by intentionally crashing a Germanwings plane, killing all 150 people on board, pilot mental health is an issue getting attention again. Lubitz was being treated for depression prior to his suicide on March 25, 2015. The investigation that followed after Lubitz crashed into the French Alps showed that Lubitz had spoken with at least 12 doctors in the weeks prior to the Germanwings tragedy. The doctors remained quiet. Now, French authorities are looking to change the rules and force doctors to come forward with information if they are treating pilots.

The investigation that followed after Lubitz crashed into the French Alps showed that Lubitz had spoken with at least 12 doctors in the weeks prior to the Germanwings tragedy. The doctors remained quiet. Now, French authorities are looking to change the rules and force doctors to come forward with information if they are treating pilots. Arnaud Desjardin, leader of the BEA investigation, commented about what doctors were saying about Andreas Lubitz.

“Experts found that the symptoms (he was presenting at that time) could be compatible with a psychotic episode.”

The information on the mental health of Lubitz “was not delivered to Germanwings.” Lubitz did not tell his bosses at Germanwings about the doctors he was seeing. Since Lubitz did not say anything, “no action could have been taken by the authorities or his employer to prevent him from flying,” the BEA said.

Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, and Germanwings, have both denied culpability in the plane crash caused by Lubitz. Both companies stand by their statement that Lubitz was considered fit to fly. The family members who lost loved ones that day state that many people could have, and should have, stopped Lubitz from getting behind the controls.

The BEA investigation gave guidelines that should be followed in the future for pilot screening. The investigation uncovered risks that Lubitz presented with that should have stopped him from being certified. The investigation also uncovered the fact that there was a “lack of clear guidelines in German regulations on when a threat to public safety outweighs” patient privacy.

Confidentiality laws in Germany prevent doctors from sharing information on their patients, but doctors are allowed to break those laws if the doctor believes the patient is a threat to public safety. There is a catch to all this that states if a doctor does break the privacy laws and it turns out that they were wrong, then they will lose their jobs and license to practice. Desjardin states that these rules need to change so doctors don’t fear losing their jobs if they end up being wrong.

“That’s why I think clearer rules are needed to preserve public security.”

The BEA has also made recommendations that a support group be created for pilots who fear losing their jobs due to mental health issues.

“The reluctance of pilots to declare their problems and seek medical assistance… needs to be addressed.”

It was discovered that the training Lubitz was getting from Lufthansa was interrupted for many months due to his mental health issues. He was allowed to continue his training even though the notation of “SIC” was placed into his record. That special notation means that Lubitz should have been getting regular examinations to determine if he was fit for flying.

Lufthansa stated that they were aware of Lubitz’s mental health issues, but it appears that they did not share that information with Germanwings, who claim that they had no idea.

Do you think the doctors of Andreas Lubitz should have spoken up about his condition?

[Image via AP Photo/Claude Paris]

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