Austrian medical representatives have called for greater protection for doctors after a GP, who faced months of violent threats from anti-vaccination activists and pandemic conspiracy theorists, killed herself. She had spent thousands on security and also pleaded with the police for protection after threats, but said they hadn’t taken her seriously.
Lisa-Maria Kellermayr (36) was found dead in her practice in the lakeside resort of Seewalchen am Attersee on Friday. Prosecutors said they found three suicide notes and were not planning an autopsy, reports The Guardian.
Her death prompted a wave of vigils and demonstrations. There have also been calls for laws against bullying and psychological warfare to be tightened, including making it easier to prosecute perpetrators in other EU countries, after at least two of the people believed to have targeted Kellermayr with death threats were identified as coming from Germany.
Thousands of people gathered outside St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna on Monday evening and across the country in candlelit vigils to Kellermayr, with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen leading the tributes and appealing for an end “to this intimidation and fear-mongering”.
Kellermayr was described as a passionate and caring doctor who lived for her work. She was an enthusiastic supporter of vaccines, sharing her thoughts on Twitter, and was interviewed regularly.
However, she drew a wave of hate mail after tweeting her fury when, in November 2021, anti-vaccination demonstrators and supporters of the “Querdenker” movement (the Querdenker, or ‘lateral thinkers’, include pandemic sceptics, anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown protesters, who claim the pandemic and the federal and regional laws aimed at halting the spread of the virus, infringe on citizens’ liberties) surrounded a clinic at which she had worked and blocked a main entrance used by emergency vehicles.
Kellermayr asked the police for protection, but she claimed they did not take her seriously and she employed a security guard to check patients before they entered.
The guard said he had frequently away people and removed several knives from others who entered the practice.
Kellermayr spent €100,000 on security costs, adding: “It would be cheaper to shut the practice and fly to the South Pacific with my staff.” Last month, she was forced to close her practice for good.
In her final interview with Der Standard, Kellermayr said she felt abandoned by Austria. “What has happened to me can happen to any citizen who is not well known or well connected,” she said.
Police in Germany, meanwhile, told Kellermayr they were unable to act against a man who was sending her threats because his messages were sent from the “darknet”, to which they had no access.
But reporters from Der Standard said they had little difficulty in tracing the suspect to the Berlin area, identifying him as a figure from the neo-Nazi scene. Journalists also managed to trace a man from Upper Bavaria who had threatened to put Kellermayr before a “tribune of the people”, accusing her of treason.
Austrian police have rejected the claim that they failed to take the threats against Kellermayr seriously. A spokesperson, who had previously urged Kellermayr to “stay out of the limelight”, told the Austrian agency APA: “We have been in constant contact with the doctor since November and tried to offer her protection. We did everything possible with regards to security as well as investigating (the threats).” Investigations are continuing, he said.
See more from MedicalBrief archives: