Doctor-patient trust at risk in new anti-terror proposals

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DPA/The Local - [email protected]
Doctor-patient trust at risk in new anti-terror proposals
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Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is set to publish a draft law on Thursday which would create major changes, including the abolition of dual citizenship and softening doctor-patient confidentiality rules.


The draft, aspects of which have been seen by several German media outlets, comes after four bloody attacks in less than a week in southern Germany left the country in a state of shock.

But the proposals are already meeting a hefty backlash from liberals who argue that they fail to tackle any of the causes of the disparate attacks and that they limit some of the most fundamental rights in German society.

Most controversially the reported package includes a proposal to curb doctor-patient confidentiality, allowing for doctors to report suspicions to police that a patient intends to carry out a crime.

In two of the recent attacks - a shooting incident in a Munich shopping mall which left ten dead and bombing in Ansbach which killed the attacker - the perpetrators had previously been in psychological care.

The Federal Association of Doctors (BÄK) suggested the Interior Minister could be acting unconstitutionally by infringing on doctor-patient trust.
"The tense security situation should not seduce people into hasty political and legal solutions. Doctor patient confidentiality is a basic right protected by the constitution,” said BÄK head Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery in a statement.

The debate about the limits of doctor-patient confidentiality was raised last year as well after a Germanwings pilot crashed a commercial airliner into the French Alps, killing all 150 people onboard.

The young co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, suffered from depression, had repeatedly visited doctors in the weeks before the crash, and had been advised to check in at a psychiatric hospital, French investigators found.

Dual citizenship also at risk under proposal

Another aspect of the new security package which is set to become highly contentious is the proposal to do away with dual citizenship.

Along with state interior ministers from his Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), de Maizière is set to announce plans to this effect on August 18th, public broadcaster ARD reports.

In a statement explaining the proposal, the interior ministers are set to describe dual citizenship as “a huge obstacle to integration”.

“Whoever wants to engage themselves with the politics of foreign governments, we would advise to leave Germany,” the statement says, according to ARD.

The issue of involvement of German citizens in foreign politics has also become a hot topic in recent weeks after thousands of supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to the streets in German cities after elements of the Turkish military attempted to overthrow him in July.

Cafes in Germany affiliated with a Turkish Islamist preacher whom Ankara blames for plotting the coup have also been attacked.

A further aspect of the package would facilitate quicker deportations of foreigners who are considered dangerous or who have already committed crimes. To this end, accelerated processing of decisions on deportations and asylum applications will be set up.

There are already plans in the pipeline to increase state and federal police forces with 15,000 additional personnel, according to a report from the RedaktionsNetzwerk media group.

'Showing true colours'

The proposals met with immediate criticism from opposition parties on the left of the political spectrum.

Simone Peter, co-leader of the Green Party, tweeted that “the Union [CDU/CSU] has revealed its reactionary character”.

Konstantin von Notz, spokesperson for the Green Party on digital politics, tweeted that “loosening of the duty of confidentiality weakens security rather than strengthening it.”

Response to the proposal on social media was also generally negative.

One commenter on Twitter compared the Interior Minister to US presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying “de Maizière’s lost it, relaxing of the duty of confidentiality, limitation of freedom of expression, more controls, more surveillance. [Is he] Trumpified?”

Another tweeted: “Tip: intensify psychiatric therapy, shorten waiting times, and lengthen treatment periods instead of loosening patient confidentiality.”

One right-wing commenter, meanwhile asked "will de Maizière also loosen duty of confidentiality for those who express 'hate speech' in therapy sessions?"

Authorities have recently been cracking down on hate speech crimes, conducting the first nationwide raids against offenders in July, with critics on the right accusing them of acting in an authoritarian manner.

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reports that de Maizière intends to get the package through the Bundestag in the upcoming legislative period, citing leading figures within the coalition.



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