Not deferential enough: An alpine horror

Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2015 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: An alpine horror

by Gina Hamilton

Yes. Depressed or mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators. Yes. We as a society should be doing everything possible to help the victims of mental illness to find happy, productive lives.

But let's not ignore what happened here. A young man with suicidal tendencies -- a young man being treated for depression, yes, depression -- slowly slammed a jetliner into an alpine meadow, killing himself ... and 149 other, non-suicidal people, who didn't choose this as a way out.

He's hardly the first, and he won't be the last, and part of the reason is that the pendulum has swung so far from the days of abusive asylums to "don't mention mental illness because it might prejudice someone" that we are hiring people who are potential killers and putting them in charge of the lives of large numbers of people.

So let's be painfully honest and crystal clear for a moment.

People who are suicidal have it in mind to kill someone. That's what suicidal means.

People who are suicidal are not thinking like rational people.

People who are suicidal should not be at the cockpit of a large airliner or the helm of a ferryboat. They shouldn't even have a license to drive a car. And they damn sure shouldn't be able to buy a gun.

No one is blaming the mentally ill for being mentally ill. It's not their fault they are depressed and suicidal. The fault lies in their genes, or in their metabolic makeup, or in some sort of external stimulus that they just can't get over, regardless of effort.

But in no other medical situation do we put people at risk to try to make someone feel better about themselves. We wouldn't allow a blind person to fly an airplane. We wouldn't let a surgeon continue to practice with Parkinson's disease. We wouldn't allow a judge with Alzheimer's to continue to make life and death decisions.

There are, or should be, limits to our tolerance of mental and medical problems. By all means we should be doing everything in our power to help people suffering from medical problems and mental health crises, but not at the risk of innocent lives.

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