Investigators Call for New Rules for Reporting Mental Illness 1 Year After Germanwings Pilot Flew Plane into the Alps, Killing 150

Germanwings Crash: BEA Calls for New Rules on Mental Illness
Andreas Lubitz
Reuters

03/13/2016 AT 11:55 AM EDT

French aeronautic investigators released their final report on the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 on Sunday, largely criticizing regulations concerning "medical confidentiality" which prevented German doctors from reporting co-pilot Andreas Lubitz' suicidal depression to his employers.

One hundred and fourty-four passengers and six crew members died last March after the 28-year old Lubitz intentionally locked himself in the cockpit alone and crashed the plane into a remote region of the French Alps. Citizens from 20 different countries, including three Americans were on the scheduled Barcelona-Dusseldorf flight.

In a press conference held at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, BEA's chief investigator Arnaud Desjardin said Lubitz had begun to show symptoms that "could be compatible with a psychotic episode" in December 2014 though information was not passed on to Germanwings. Lubitz reportedly saw dozens of doctors during the term of his employment by the Lufthansa-owned airline. In the two weeks leading up to the crash, he visited an additional three doctors – including one who recommended his hospitalization for "possible psychosis." Again, none of this information was passed on to his employers, according to the report.

First among report recommendations is a change in the existing system (as practiced in Germany and elsewhere) allowing doctors "to breach medical confidentially and warn authorities if the disclosure of personal information would lessen or prevent a serious and/or imminent danger or a threat to public safety."



Speaking at the press conference, BEA Director Remi Jouty stated, "we think this is a global issue."

In many countries legal framework already exists allowing pertinent medical information to be disclosed, overriding traditional doctor/patient confidentiality. In certain countries like Canada, Israel and Norway, the report notes, "it is compulsory for health care providers to do so, even without the consent of the patient."

The French report was equally critical of allowing pilots to "self-declare" their medical conditions, and calls upon airlines to institute "regular and stringent medical checks." Lubitz, they noted had been using anti-depressants while flying and failed to disclose this information to his superiors.

Running parallel with a criminal investigation being directed by prosecutors in Marseilles, the BEA's 100-page final report contains 11 major recommendations including one demanding airlines permanently adopt a procedural change, maintaining at least two personnel in the cockpit at all times.

The report fell short, however, of suggesting any concerning security changes to cockpit doors, locks or onboard procedures. Suggesting anti-terrorism concerns are preeminent, Jouty said, current systems should be maintained. "The risk of terrorism is always present and the main thing is to protect the cockpit against potential terrorists."

Neither Lubitz' family nor any of his doctors chose to speak with investigators, authors of the report noted.

A memorial service is planned for families in Marseille on March 23; The following day – the one year anniversary of the crash – families will visit the isolated crash site outside Barconnelette.
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