CPRC at Fox News: “French Alps crash shows psychiatrists cannot be last line of defense”

31 Mar , 2015  

John Lott’s newest piece at Fox News starts this way:

There has been a lot of second-guessing about Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who deliberately crashed his plane into the French Alps, killing himself and 149 others. If only Lufthansa had regular mental evaluations of pilots, if only people at the airline knew what obvious signs to look for, this tragedy could have been avoided.

But psychiatrists know that isn’t true. It isn’t just fellow workers who fail to pick up the supposed subtle hints that indicate that someone might be a danger to themselves or others. “We have no indication what could have led the co-pilot to commit this terrible act,” said Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa’s chief executive.

Psychiatrists themselves have a very poor record. Identifying mental illness is a long way from thinking that the person poses a danger. Look at the inability of psychiatrists to identify mass shooters. It’s very common for mass killers to be seeing psychiatrists before their attacks, including Elliot Rodger (Santa Barbara), Ivan Lopez (the most recent Fort Hood shooter), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook elementary school), James Holmes (Aurora, Colo., movie theater), and Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech).

Rodger had already been receiving top-quality mental-health counseling for years. Indeed, one of his psychiatrists, Dr. Charles Sophy, is nationally known and medical director for the LA County Department of Children and Family Services. . . . .

The rest of the piece is available here.

Of course, the piece only gives recent cases, but this failure to predict mass shooters goes way back.  Even Charles Whitman, the University of Texas shooter in 1966, was seeing multiple doctors and a psychologist.  He saw the staff psychiatrist at the University of Texas Health Center, Maurice Dean Heatly, on March 29, 1966.  Unfortunately, neither the psychiatrist nor the other doctors diagnosed Whitman’s brain tumor that was the size of golf ball.  The autopsy on Whitman revealed that tumor could very well have been the cause of his actions.

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One Response

  1. Thanks for posting this article, John! I think it’s important to first realize that psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals have a very difficult job. The human mind is very fluid, and its experimentation isn’t always consistent. Meaning: you can try your best, but the desired outcome isn’t always achieved. So, I complete agree with what you’re saying. There needs to be many levels of defense against what happened in the French Alps. I’ve always thought that it would nice to have a stronger regulatory autopilot system.

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