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france 24 Europe

Doctors urged psychiatric treatment for Germanwings co-pilot

© Team Mueller/ AFP file picture | A handout photo of German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, taken on September 13, 2009

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-03-13

A private doctor recommended that the German pilot who crashed a Germanwings jet into the Alps last year should be treated in a psychiatric hospital two weeks before the disaster, French investigators said on Sunday.

Prosecutors believe Lubitz, who had a history of severe depression, barricaded himself into the cockpit and deliberately propelled his Airbus jet into a mountainside on March 24, killing all 150 people on board.

The BEA (France’s official air accident investigation office) said in its final report that Lubitz, 27, had begun to show symptoms that could be consistent with a psychotic depressive episode in December 2014 and consulted several doctors over the following months, none of whom alerted aviation authorities or his employer.

French investigator Arnaud Desjardins, who presented the report, said that in order to ensure aviation safety "clearer rules are needed to establish when it is necessary to lift medical confidentiality" for pilots who have psychological issues.

Medical privacy

Prosecutors have found evidence that the co-pilot, who also had eyesight problems and may have feared losing his job, had researched suicide methods and concealed his illness from his employer, sparking a debate on supervision and medical privacy in the profession.

Lubitz had been flying on a medical certificate that contained a waiver because of a severe depressive episode from August 2008 to July 2009. The waiver stated that the certificate would become invalid if there was a relapse into depression.

However, the BEA stated in its report that his mental state had not generated any concerns among his fellow pilots.

The BEA urged European authorities to carry out more research on the incapacitation of pilots, particularly where psychiatric issues are involved, and to tighten the rules for follow-up checks when pilots with a history of psychiatric problems are declared fit to fly.

'Exaggeration'?

However, Michel Nesterenko, Director of Research at the CF2R French Research Center on Intelligence, questioned the panel’s recommendations.

“If we apply these kind of standards there won’t be many pilots [left] flying,” he told FRANCE 24.

“The great majority of pilots in the world have had bouts of depression, some alcohol [problems] and so on. Plus, what exactly is a psychological problem?” Nesterenko added.

Nesterenko told FRANCE 24 that he believes French authorities “greatly exaggerated” Lubitz’s mental illness.

Nesterenko said, “If he was really crazy, to the point at which he should be locked up in a psychiatric hospital, how come the captain did not notice this? He had flown the whole day with this man. How come the crew didn’t notice this? How come his family didn’t notice?”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-03-13

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