Experts Theorize Aggression, Not Just Depression, May Be Behind Germanwings Crash

The Los Angeles Times (4/6, Healy) reported in a 1,700-word story that “mental health experts say that it was aggression — not just depression — that would have driven 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz to deliberately crash a Germanwings airliner into a mountainside.” But, “unless investigators recognize the toxic role of aggression and hostility in some patients’ depression, they say, such troubled individuals will continue to elude detection — to the public’s peril.” The piece quoted aggression researcher and neuropsychiatrist Jeff Victoroff, MD, of the University of South California’s Keck School of Medicine, who said of Lubitz. “This was a murderous guy who probably had elements of a mood disorder and personality disorders.” Forensic psychiatrist Steven E. Pitt, DO, said, “There has to be a maladaptive character defect, a character disorder here.”

In an essay for Scientific American (4/6) titled “What Should Lufthansa Have Done to Prevent the Germanwings Tragedy?,” psychiatrist Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association, wrote that “the critical question is not whether someone has had an illness but whether it has been adequately treated and they are actively symptomatic or not.” Dr. Lieberman pointed out, “With some exceptions (commercial pilot licenses are not available to people with type 1 diabetes or epilepsy), we do not prohibit people from jobs just because they have an illness, unless its symptoms impair their ability to function adequately.” Dr. Lieberman concluded, “In general, someone who has a prior history of depression but has been effectively treated and is no longer symptomatic should not be prohibited from working,” and “forcing people to go underground with their mental illness will not make us safer in the air – or anywhere else.”

Related Links:

— “Aggression, not just depression, led copilot to crash plane, experts say,” Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2015.

Posted in In The News.