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Moses Obroku: Avoiding the Tragedy of Flight 9525

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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

Aside from being a lawyer, migration management expert, security personnel and fitness buff; there are many other sides to me. I am also a self -proclaimed foodie (and oh yes, to complement that, I can cook!). Of course, writing is my passion and I have a mission to inspire my world, one person at a time. I can be reached on [email protected] Instagram: @mosesobroku

5 Comments

  1. oyinlola

    April 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Very sad truly. Very sad. In as much we clamor for fairness to all, I think some roles are just too sensitive to take risks with especially one that directly involves other lives. This young man had suffered bouts of depression, he could have been counseled to take another job and exactly as you asked, where should the lines be drawn as regards patient’s privacy? shouldn’t the employer be made aware of something as important as the off-days mandated and reasons for it?

    I do hope lessons have been learned. accidents do happen everyday but there are some we have control over.. I pray the loved ones find solace and comfort from good memories.

  2. Theresa

    April 6, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    This is our world today: selfish/narcissistic sociopaths who in a bid to achieve their aims are willing to destroy others. They come in different guises with different excuses, but their motivation is selfish ambition. We live in hostile times my friends, may we cleave strongly to God so that we can stand regardless of what happens.

  3. faith

    April 7, 2015 at 5:45 am

    I’m sorry for this statement.. This is so not me. I didn’t bother to read all parts of the story. The headline piqued my interest.
    #clears throat.
    I’m always amazed by the way ‘We’ are always fascinated about the western countries problems and we talked about it, blog, tweet or even discuss abt it. From Sept 11 to ALS icebucket challenge. We all act riled up when they have problems. From the outline of your story, you seem to be mourning dead more than the dead. Recently, More than half of Nigerians & Kenyans killed were mentally stable, no depression disorder, had world changing ideas & families too. But yet, the western world gave no hoot about them, afterall it’s just a number. We talk about stuffs that affects us directly or indirectly. Sir, most of us can’t afford an air ticket to even lagos or Abuja from our different locations. That plane crash doesn’t really bother us. The western world is now an ideal place because people like ‘you’ out there thought that the public rights is greater than an individual right. Come back home & mourn with us. Life has dealt with us a cruel fate. 147 students killed would have loved to live too.

    • babygirl

      April 7, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      I think your comment is a very shallow minded one. So because a lot of you cannot afford air ticket from Lagos to Abuja means that those that could afford it should not be given precautionary measures while in the air? Do you know how many flights operate daily in Nigeria as a local flight not to talk of international flights and the number of lives involved? Please as much as other issues are important such as terrorism, we should not neglect other important stuffs too such as this one because it concerns us all, both those in the flight and those on the land…(remember the last plane crash at the Oko-Oba Agege area)

  4. NathanFF

    April 7, 2015 at 7:32 am

    FactorField is grieving with those who lost their loved ones in this tragic incident. Convey your feelings; we are paying attention.

    No explanation nor justification can be offered to such a heartbreaking result. Lives were lost and with that our joy; we need to mourn. Above all we must commemorate the victims; the world needs to remember them. Open your heart, express your thoughts and feelings – we want to know, and never forget. Share a story, Commemorate, acknowledge; lament.

    factorfield.com/commemoration_view.php?commid=28

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