Austria mourns suicide of doctor targetted by anti-vaccine campaigners

Austrian leaders called for national unity after a doctor facing death threats from anti-vaccination campaigners and conspiracy theorists over the coronavirus pandemic took his own life.

“Let’s end this intimidation and fear. Hate and intolerance have no place in our Austria,” said President Alexander Van der Bellen, who praised Lisa-Maria Kellermayr as a doctor who stood for the healing of people, the protection of disease and a cautious approach to the pandemic.

“But some people got angry about it. And these people scared her, threatened her, first on the Internet and then also in person, directly at her practice.”

The body of the doctor, who had often given interviews to the media about the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and the promotion of vaccinations, was found in her office in Upper Austria on Friday.

Media quoted prosecutors as saying they had found a suicide note and that they did not plan to perform an autopsy.

Austria last month abandoned plans to introduce compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for adults, saying the move was unlikely to boost one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe.

Tens of thousands of people had marched in regular protests against lockdowns last year and plans to make vaccinations mandatory, highlighting the social divide over public health measures that many countries have experienced.

But the doctor’s death, which the Austrian doctors’ association said reflected a wider trend of threats against medical staff, shocked the country.

“Hatred against people is inexcusable. This hatred must finally stop,” said Health Minister Johannes Rauch.

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