While mystery continues to surround the motives behind the actions of Andreas Lubitz, the A320 co-pilot who apparently deliberately steered Germanwings Flight 9525 into a mountain after locking the pilot out of the cockpit, families of the victims are considering filing a claim for damages in the United States.
The US move could happen if relatives can’t reach agreement with Germanwings’ parent airline Lufthansa in Germany, a lawyer representing the families has said.
Damages payments in Germany are calculated on a strictly financial basis and do not take into account pain and suffering, whereas US law considers those factors in the total amount.
Lubitz told officials at a Lufthansa training school in 2009 that he had gone through a period of severe depression and Düsseldorf state prosecutors said Lubitz had been treated for suicidal tendencies before getting his pilot’s licence.
Police found a torn-up sick note from a doctor showing that Lubitz was suffering from an illness that should have grounded him on the day of the flight, but quite what the illness was still hasn’t been revealed. The issue is clouded by patient-doctor confidentiality. German law prevents the full details being released unless authorised by a court.
Some experts, however, have questioned any diagnosis of “depression”.
Anne Skomorowsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who practises psychosomatic medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, admits that even doctors invoke “depression” to explain any behaviour a reasonable adult wouldn’t do.
But as for “act completely blasé, then lock the pilot out of the cockpit, and deliberately crash a plane full of people. I don’t know what that is, but it’s not depression,” she says.
Writing in Slate magazine, Skomorowsky asks: “Was Andreas Lubitz depressed? We don’t know; a torn-up doctor’s note and bottles of pills don’t tell us much. Most people who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness, most commonly depression.
“But calling his actions suicidal is misleading. Lubitz did not die quietly at home. He maliciously engineered a spectacular plane crash and killed 150 people.
“Suicidal thoughts can be a hallmark of depression, but mass murder is another beast entirely.”
Written by : Peter Needham