The recent Germanwings crash has highlighted an important area for healthcare professionals. Should they have the moral authority of informing others if there is perceived danger due to an illness? Or should patient privacy supersede all else?
It’s a very difficult subject to tackle as we do not have the power of hindsight. Take this disaster as an example. The doctors were likely trying to treat Lubitz while preserving his job. Taking that away from him was likely deemed counter productive. Knowing when it became dangerous may not have been possible. It is easy if we had known he was going to crash an airplane.
Having said this there are scenarios where transparency in the patient’s health is important. A simple task like driving is forbidden in those with seizures or under medications which impair judgement. However, in most countries, it is left to the patient to execute this order. Sadly, many continue to drive, which poses a danger to themselves and others.
So was the onus to inform the airline the duty of the pilot or the healthcare professional? It is likely that the pilot intentionally hid his details from the doctor as well as his airline company.
This is where technology may come in. A patient’s medical records should be cloud based and available to those authorized to screen it. As of now, medical care can be fragmented with little to no communication between treating doctors , especially in different hospitals.
When someone is entrusted with the lives of others, his personal medical history should no longer be private.
Our prayers are with the families of the victims.