Screening Pilots Didn’t Work, and Other Thoughts on the Germanwings Crash

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Most pilots who’ve used planes to commit suicide had actually been screened for mental health issues, reports the New York Times. Plus a selection of other commentaries that continue to emerge about the Germanwings plane crash…

Selected excerpts from around the web:

“In recent years, a series of commercial pilots appear to have crashed their aircraft intentionally or been stopped by fellow crew members as they tried. In most cases, those pilots had been screened for psychological problems.”

“It remains astonishing how many pilots with mild or fading depressive disorders taking antidepressants flew without the knowledge of flight doctors — and still fly for us,” Dr. Uwe Stüben and Dr. Jürgen Kriebel, who both worked for Lufthansa, wrote in the abstract of a paper published in 2011, while Mr. Lubitz was still a trainee.”

Germanwings Crash Exposes History of Denial on Risk of Pilot Suicide (New York Times, April 18, 2015)

“Dr. Sapolsky assigns blame to the pilot’s brain, and I do too. But his brain did not act alone. Lubitz had been using, for depression and perhaps some other ailments, psychotropic drugs.”

Lubitz Was A Victim, But Not of Depression (Evidencer, April 5, 2015)

“About a decade ago, I, Gordon Marino, sank into a serious funk. My family physician prescribed an antidepressant, the serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) Paxil. Within a couple of days, I began having repugnant thoughts and impulses. Having been in psychotherapy for a good part of my troubled life, I had developed enough introspective ability to realize these ideas were ‘not me,’ but an adverse effect of the medication. I discontinued the drug and the horned ideas that were visiting me quickly vanished.”

Germanwings, suicide and the hidden dangers of antidepressants (Star Tribune, April 9, 2015)

“Dear German Medical Colleagues… Please bear with me through this rather long letter. There is so much that I have been wondering and worrying about—including you. I may never know who you are, but if you provided medical or psychiatric care for Andreas Lubitz, co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, we are colleagues… I do not know how prominent so-called ‘anti-psychiatrists’ are in Germany, but if they are anything like they are here in the US, they are likely to blame psychiatric medication for the co-pilot’s bizarre and tragic behavior. Of course, they could well have a point. Some antidepressants, which can cause visual side effects, were prescribed for Mr Lubitz, agents perhaps, that we don’t in the US.”

To the Clinicians of the Co-Pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 (Psychiatric Times, April 10, 2015)

“With the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, caused by a rogue pilot with a history of depression, people are calling for better mental-health screenings for pilots. But it’s not just in aviation where mental-health treatment is a concern. Consider also doctors, dentists, lawyers. They have trained for years, passed tough exams, been licensed and deemed fit by a stringent set of regulations; they’re needed at their best. Yet many of these high-responsibility, high-risk career fields have high rates of suicide. That means many of these highly trained workers could be showing up at work in a compromised condition.”

Mentally Ill in a High-Stakes Job (The Atlantic, April 16, 2015)

“The thinking goes: If only such and such was done, it wouldn’t have happened. Bad things can be prevented if those people would just do their job. I’m sorry, but there is no way to make the world 100 percent safe. Ever. There are also major problems with the emphasis on “duty to warn or protect.” The California Supreme Court emphasized the principle in a 1974 case, Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, saying mental-health professionals have a duty not only to protect their patients, but also anyone threatened by a patient. It is not surprising the public assumes all mental-health professionals must warn intended victims and law enforcement of patients’ violent tendencies. But there are so many errors in this assumption.”

Therapists’ duty to protect too murky for uncertain world (Kentucky.com, April 12, 2015)

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Nice round-up, Rob 🙂

    Regarding the NYTimes, the quote from the 2011 Stüben publication was not accompanied by a source. I traced the quote to a pretty harsh April 12 article about him in a German paper, which did not supply the source, either. I searched the net, but using English keywords, and had no luck. I wrote to the author of the German article and will report back if he supplies it.

    This is the German article, roughly translated by Google:

    https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=de&u=http://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article139433160/Chefsache-Andreas-L.html&usg=ALkJrhgecmvWqecI8C2CGIT-AjxZrEGpiw

  2. On behalf of the uninitiated, please allow me to translate:

    “depressive disorders” – fictitious diseases and stigmatizing labels arising from the false Bible of psychiatry (the DSM) that are often applied to people who experience symptoms of sadness in order for psychiatrists to feel like they are real doctors / this category is also useful for pharmaceutical companies looking to market a wide variety of harmful psychotropic substances to unsuspecting victims

    “screening” – psychiatric propaganda tool used to ensnare innocent people in the system of psychotropic drugging and stigmatizing labels in order to produce greater profits for psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies

    “so called ‘anti-psychiatrists'” – a label used to dismiss those who tell the truth about psychiatry and psychotropic drugs

    “mental-health professionals” – people who have absolutely no clue about what they are doing but who want to pretend that they are experts in something

    • This compelling situation of recognised tragedy and endless grief might be expected to result in hard scientific evaluation of the potential for psycho-leptic drug use and/or withdrawal, to have contributed to suicidal ideation / completion. i.e. The loss of this aircraft and all souls onboard. This is too important to be dismissed as “anti-psychiatry”. The term defends the indefensible.
      Those whose experience of the willingness of “mainstream psychiatry” to dismiss and deny such severe and wide ranging “medication” toxicites includes multi-systems injury to their loved ones: initially afforded respect and belief in their “science”. We have been abused, mislead, deceived, injured and traumatised. Our lives can never be re-constructed. Those who remain alive have a duty to demand absolute openness, honesty and integrity in the meticulous investigation of this most terrible loss.

          • That is correct. That is what I tried to say. No evidence to support that point of view has been accepted by scientifically and peer reviewed sources.

            I am certainly not pro-pharma.

          • Here’s the thing: in real science, we operate from the null hypothesis, and the person claiming the null hypothesis is wrong has the burden of proof. So if someone says antidepresssants work but has not proof of it, the assumption is they don’t work. As for dangerous effects, I think it’s the opposite: the appropriate assumption is that all drugs have side effects that could be dangerous until proven otherwise. If there is any suggestion that, for example, SSRIs cause certain people to go berserk and commit mass murder, it is not the person observing this who is responsible for proving it is so. It is the manufacturer’s obligation to demonstrate that this is not connected to the drug. Of course, there has to be at least an apparent connection – the bad behavior has to follow administration of the drug in more than one case. But the recipients should not have to submit double-blind proof that the drug is dangerous. If there is indication it is dangerous, then we should assume it is dangerous until proven otherwise. That’s the null hypothesis. It makes no sense to assume no side effects until proven otherwise, because that goes counter to huge amounts of general experience that drugs do have side effects. In fact, aggression (euphamistically called “manic behavior”) and suicidal behavior are noted as side effect possibility on all SSRIs.

            The drug is not innocent until proven guilty. If there is any reasonable chance that such a drug could cause such a reaction, it should be eliminated before the drug is assumed to be safe.

            —- Steve