Austrians mourn doctor who took her own life after death threats from anti-vaccination campaigners – The Irish Times

Austrians have gathered in their thousands across the country to remember a doctor who took her own life after death threats from anti-vaccination campaigners and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists.

Lisa-Maria Kellermayr was found dead at her practice in Upper Austria on Friday, two days after she had closed it because of online bullying and threats. Austrian police say they found a suicide note beside the 36 year old’s body and were not planning an autopsy.

“Hatred against people is inexcusable and this hatred must finally stop,” said Johannes Rauch, Austria’s health minister.

Austrian president Alexander van der Bellen hailed Dr Kellermayr as someone who had dedicated her life to others and who was vocal during the pandemic, giving media interviews about how to fight the pandemic and on vaccinations. “This enraged some people,” he said. “These people scared her, threatened her, first on the internet and then also in person, directly in her practice.”

Her death prompted gatherings in six cities across Austria late on Sunday evening, including in Vienna. Thousands of people gathered around St Stephen’s Cathedral, laying flowers and holding candles and waving smartphone lamps.

Low point

Organizers said the doctor’s death was a new low point in Austria’s pandemic experience. Last year, tens of thousands of Covid-19 conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine campaigners marched through central Vienna in protest at a new Covid-19 vaccine mandate. Last month, Austria dropped the plan, saying it was unlikely to raise the vaccination rate.

With 13 per cent of Austrians still unvaccinated against Covid-19, one of Europe’s highest rates, Dr Kellermayr was a media go-to for vaccination questions – making her a target of an unprecedented online and offline hate campaign. In her farewell note, she said she had invested €100,000 in a panic room to protect her and her staff but that, when it came to police protection, “there was a lot of talk but barely anyone did anything”.

Anonymous accounts

Austrian police say they responded to threats as best they could, but that many were sent from anonymous accounts in the so-called darknet. In April, a German man arrested on suspicion of threatening her was released because investigators saw no immediate threat.

Austria’s doctors’ association said it had developed a plan with Dr. Kellermayr to help save her practice, but that she had not accepted its help.

A previous suicide attempt two weeks ago was prevented but, on Friday, friends discovered her too late to save her.

Vienna demonstration organizer Daniel Landau knew the doctor and said her death was the consequence of official apathy towards real threats from Covid-19 conspiracy theorists. “When people start to tolerate everything,” he said, “they will soon find out that their tolerance is obsolete.”

Questions of official responsibility – and failure – hung over the Vienna gathering. One middle-aged woman said: “This has really affected me, that hate like this can push people psychologically over the edge.”

In anti-vaccination chat groups, demonstrators cheered the news, with one writing: “At least now she can’t do any more harm.”

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