Alps crash pilot's hidden illness sparks privacy debate

Picture released on March 27, 2015 shows the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U9525 Andreas Lubitz taking part in the Airport Hamburg 10-mile run on September 13, 2009 in Hamburg, northern Germany. AFP Photo

Findings that the co-pilot believed to have deliberately crashed a Germanwings plane hid psychological problems from his employer prompted a charged debate in Germany on Monday on patients' right to privacy.
Still reeling from last Tuesday's disaster that killed 150 people, half of them German, many in the country asked whether the potential to neutralise threats to public safety should not trump doctor-patient privilege.
A transport policy expert from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), Dirk Fischer, said physicians' strict confidentiality policy should be loosened when their patients work in sensitive fields.
Professionals such as pilots "should only see doctors designated by their employers," Fischer told the daily Rheinische Post.
He added that such doctors "should be relieved of their pledge of secrecy in communication with the employer and the aviation authority".
Member of parliament Thomas Jarzombek, also of the CDU, called for the creation of a commission of experts to study how to handle illnesses among those whose jobs mean they hold the welfare of many people in their hands.
German prosecutors said Monday that Lubitz had been diagnosed "several years ago" with suicidal tendencies and was still in treatment. Although his symptoms had abated, he was apparently written off sick on the day the Airbus crashed.
Media reports have indicated that Lubitz, 27, was taking medication for severe depression and was being treated for problems with his vision, possibly for a potentially career-ending detached retina.
Investigators evaluating voice recorder data say Lubitz remained silent and breathed calmly as he allegedly...

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