So the Germanwings pilot who deliberately crashed his plane in March 2015 killing all 150 on board appears to have been suffering from severe depression. The information about the illness was not available to his employers because of the privacy laws. These laws are meant to prevent the discrimination of people with mental or other illnesses in the workplace. It has to be said that in this particular case the laws worked a treat – the suicidal pilot was allowed to fly so the workplace discrimination was successfully prevented. A minor downside is that the plane ended up embedded in the side of a mountain but this should not unduly worry the privacy advocates, should it?
The report into the causes of the crash now recommends that the privacy laws be relaxed to allow the airlines better access to their pilots medical records. In a masterpiece of Orwellian logic:
A union representing German pilots welcomed the recommendations as a “balanced package of measures”, but it said strict rules on data protection needed to be developed in conjunction with criteria for suspending confidentiality rules.
So yes, there should be more access to the medical records but only if there is more data protection. I believe that, considering the current public mood, some waivers of the privacy laws will probably get implemented. Then the conspiratorial faction of the unions will kick up a fuss about the workplace discrimination and, with the support of the loopy Greens, bring back the protection of the medical data from the prying eyes of the employers. And then another nutter will sit behind the rudder of an airliner…
This spectacle – fits of tightening and relaxing of the privacy laws – has been going on for as long as we had democracy in the West. Laws introduced as a knee-jerk reaction to tragic incidents get diluted over time to appease the more paranoid/anarchist/anti-government faction of the voters. There is no long-term view adopted on which provisions best suit the interests of the public; just a series of convulsive changes driven by lobby groups. The media obligingly report the proceedings so the public will be subjected to the alternating scares of unsafe pilots and spying employers. Is there a better way?
Well, how about the airlines deciding how much they want to know about the pilots they are looking at employing and then letting us know the standards they apply? One airline might require access to full medical records and even carry out occasional drug detection and psychological tests of their pilots. Another airline would employ anyone with a valid license to fly. Having been informed about the above recruiting rules – which airline would you choose to fly with?
N.B. I have written on da-boss about the nutty medical rules for pilots before