Andreas Lubitz was practically unknown and would probably have remained so before he diabolically murdered 149 people on March 24, 2015. The Germanwings Airline he worked for was also relatively unknown outside of Europe until that day that Lubitz brought the plane down and inadvertently dragged Lufthansa the parent company into this debacle.
Now, we are left with grieving families and a baffled world asking ‘why?’ In theory, no one would have seen this deliberate crashing of the plane coming. Or is that right? If we scrutinized the individual that was Lubitz, and the people that related with him closely like his erstwhile girlfriend, and medical personnel that treated or were treating him; we will begin to wonder if that tragedy couldn’t have been averted.
The news is now awash with Lubitz’s comments to his ex-girlfriend that one day he will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know his name and remember it; which of course didn’t mean much then until it all fits now that he has taken 149 innocent lives.
More revealing however, is the series of psychiatric and other medical personnel who had and were treating him for depression and other ailment that could hinder him from performing his rather sensitive job albeit temporarily; and their non-disclosure to his employers of his situation.
Unfortunately, in trying to protect our individual privacy, society has instituted the doctor/patient privilege so that such disclosure is usually left to the discretion of the patient; except where it appears the patient portends a clear and present danger to himself and others. In retrospect, would all the doctors who treated Lubitz have kept quiet if they could do it all over again knowing he would commit mass murder?
Just as the tragic events of 9/11 prompted a review of the cockpit security and access, ensuring unauthorized persons don’t gain access to it (which ironically ensured the pilot of the crashed Germanwings plane remained locked out), society may want to start reviewing where a patient’s right to privacy ends and where collective safety from every potential Andreas Lubitz commences.
This is by no means a call to senseless publication of people’s medical history, dehumanizing them or making a ridicule of their plight. But surely, within the borders of decency and necessity with the cooperation of the patient; a controlled disclosure to one’s employers or immediate family members has become imperative to avoiding this kind of tragedy. If this had been the case, Lubitz would not have been a co-pilot on Germanwings with the lives of 149 people in his hands to do as he pleased. He probably would have been a flight instructor, still very relevant in the job he loved.
What if the doctor who recommended the off duty for him two days before the dastardly act (as evidenced by the trashed torn up note) had been required to notify Germanwings authorities of that recommendation, so that we had a doctor/patient/employer or family member privilege arrangement?
For society to evolve to where we are now, mankind had to surrender a large portion of our individual proclivities and rights to governments for a common administration. This is how we have been able to ensure our collective survival. We may need to surrender some more rights to privacy unfortunately, especially where it involves challenges with the mind as well as physical limitations that would affect others.
The foregoing notwithstanding, the ongoing revelations after this crash that Lufthansa had knowledge of Lubitz’s prior conditions only brings endless questions as to why he was allowed to fly. Questions I am certain only them can attempt to answer.
When we hear of air crash or any other disaster, especially those that could have been avoided, we feel a certain revulsion and collective pain. Can we begin to even imagine what it was like for the victims of such in their final moments or the anguish of their families who have to deal with the irreparable loss?
On the day MH370 mysteriously disappeared, my wife was in the air to China. I remember how I felt until I could hear from her again. With the Lubitz satanic attack now, should one start worrying about the pilots that fly the planes we travel in, their mental state of health or indeed if they are al-Qaida or Isis converts or lone demented like Andreas Lubitz?
Pilots are usually unseen when on duty. We only hear them when they address passengers in the course of the journey. Except for those we know personally, we can hardly identify them when we see them out of uniforms off duty. Unless they do something heroic as Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger who landed a US Airways plane on the Hudson river in the United States in January 2009, after losing two engines to a flock of birds shortly after take-off; thereby saving all 155 people on board and becoming the darling of the media.
One time I was on a flight alongside some Turkish teenagers from Brussels to Casablanca. From their happy conversations, I could tell they were on excursion to see Morocco. As the plane touched down in Casablanca smoothly, the children cheered and clapped and whistled for the captain; as if to say ‘thank you sir for flying smoothly’. It was one of the most beautiful moments I had experienced on a plane, hearing them make all that noise of gratitude.
The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 Andreas Lubitz never gave those 16 German children returning from their school exchange programme the opportunity to clap and cheer when they would have arrived home, or for the rest of the passengers to experience the bliss of a smooth touch down. With all his talk of wanting to do something memorable; I wish he can now see that he only succeeded in joining the list of the scum of the earth like Adolf Hitler, whom humanity wishes never existed.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Katrina Brown