Here we are again, at the point where public health intersects with psychiatric illness and individual rights.
Apparently, Andreas Lubitz, he mad co-pilot of the Germanwings plane that crashed into a mountain in Southern France suffered from severe mental illness. As the story is now being presented, Lubitz chose not to inform his employer that he had been declared unfit to fly.
But why, pray tell, did someone charged with the safety of passengers have the choice?
Apparently, German privacy laws prevent psychiatrists from informing an employer of a patient’s condition.
And yet, his illness was anything but a mystery. A French newspaper, Le Figaro, reported this morning that Lubitz's instructors at his flight taining in Phoenix had declared him unfit to fly. His psychiatric history should have been well known to his employer. Since German privacy laws allow psychiatrists to breach confidentiality in some cases, one wonders why this did not count as one of those cases.
It also seems clear that Lupitz had been taking psychiatric medication. Whether he was on or off his meds I do not know. But oughtn’t we to recognize that these medications, whatever their virtues and value, are of limited usefulness. Since Lupitz was clearly not a everyday depressed patient, ought we perhaps to redefine what we mean by treatment in such cases.
As for the question of motive, the New York Post offers this insight:
The stunning revelation came as a German newspaper quoted another of Lubitz’s ex-girlfriends recalling that within the past year, he had promised her that one day he’d “make everyone remember him.”
The ex, identified by Bild newspaper as “Maria, 26,” also said Lubitz would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, “We’re crashing!”
“When I heard about the crash, one thing that he said kept going through my head: ‘One day I’m going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember it.’ ” the woman told the paper.
“I didn’t know what he meant, but now it makes sense.”
An anonymous individual, preferring infamy to anonymity, wants to make an impact, wants to be remembered, wants to change the system.
Unfortunately, he did what he said he wanted to do.