The Germanwings co-pilot who almost certainly brought down Flight 4U 9525 in an act of murder-suicide saw 41 doctors in five years (including seven in the month before the March 24 crash) as he pursued a fear that he was going blind, a French prosecutor says. (Per the AP, “German prosecutors have said [Lubitz] had no actual physical ailments.”) Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin says some doctors were concerned the pilot, Andreas Lubitz, was mentally unfit to fly—but were legally prohibited from sharing their concerns with his employer or with authorities. From the AP:
Lubitz had seven medical appointments within the month before the March 24 crash, including three appointments with a psychiatrist, Robin said. Some of the doctors felt Lubitz was psychologically unstable, and some felt he was unfit to fly, but “unfortunately that information was not reported because of medical secrecy requirements,” the prosecutor said.
In Germany, doctors risk prison if they disclose information about their patients to anyone unless there is evidence they intend to commit a serious crime or harm themselves.
Time reported in March that any German doctor who ruled Lubitz unfit to work would have given him documentation that vouched for his lack of fitness but did not disclose the reason therefor. (Lubitz reportedly had such documents in his possession before the fatal flight but had not given them to Germanwings.) “Failure to warn” laws in many U.S. states not only allow but in fact require mental health professionals to report potentially dangerous clients to authorities. (It doesn’t appear that any of those rules specifically require reporting on the general mental state of a pilot, though the idea that health professionals could be within their ethical rights to make such a report has been discussed in academic settings.)
Robin’s investigative findings will now be pursued by French magistrates, who could consider criminal charges against Lubitz’s employers if they’re found to have known but not acted on information about the co-pilot’s potential to cause harm. “For the moment we don’t have certainty that Germanwings or Lufthansa were aware of this information,” the Wall Street Journal quotes Robin as saying about Lubitz’s doctors’ visits. “That will be part of what the magistrates are looking into.”