Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz carried out a horrifying mass murder of the passengers aboard Germanwings flight 9525. It has come to light that he was diagnosed with serious mental illness, but medical professionals were prevented by German law from communicating his condition to the airline, and Lubitz hid his psychological issues:
Strict medical privacy laws mean the companies were oblivious to the potential dangers lurking in Lubitz’s mind as the first officer took the plane into a steep descent over the region that members of his local gliding club, where he developed his passion for flying, had toured in the past. Confidentiality regulations, designed to protect medical data and encourage people to consult doctors without fear of repercussion, put the onus on patients to disclose potentially hazardous diagnoses to authorities and their employers.
“The medical secrecy rules are centuries old and touch the core of the medical profession,” said René Steinhaeuser, an attorney at Wigge lawyers in Hamburg who specializes in medical law. “Without that, the relationship between physician and patient, and thus the medical system as a whole, wouldn’t work.”
Tonight’s news includes suggestions that someone at Germanwings may have had information about Lubitz’s situation, but put that to one side for purposes of this discussion.