The people of Austria are in morning now that a prominent COVID-19 doctor has died. She received numerous death threats from various anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists before taking her own life earlier this year.
Before her death, Lisa-Maria Kellermayr was known for healing people and taking a cautious approach during the pandemic.
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen is calling for national unity in the wake of the tragedy.
“Let’s put an end to this intimidation and fear mongering. Hate and intolerance have no place in our Austria,” the president said. “But some people have been enraged by this. And these people scared her, threatened her, first on the internet and then also in person, directly in her practice.”
She was known as the public face of the country’s response to the pandemic. She regularly gave interviews about the virus on national TV. But all that exposure and notoriety came at a steep price.
Her body was found in her office in the northern part of the country. Officials say they found a suicide note and do not plan on doing an autopsy.
COVID-19 has become an extremely contentious issue in Austria. It has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe. The government recently announced it would drop the vaccination mandate for all adults in the country after intense public backlash. Thousands of protesters have been filling the streets calling for an end to lockdown and vaccine mandates.
But experts say the doctor’s death is just the latest example of growing threats against public health officials.
“Hatred against people is inexcusable. This hatred must finally stop,” Health Minister Johannes Rauch said.
Earlier this year, Kellermayr announced that she was closing her medical practice temporarily after more than seven months of receiving death threats. She said she had spent over $102,000 on security.
Finally in mid-July, Kellermayr said was permanently closing the practice because she couldn’t “offer any perspective for whether or when it will be possible for us to work under ‘normal’ circumstances.”
The doctor was likely the victim of misinformation, according to officials.
“As a doctor, she dedicated her life to the health and well-being of others,” Rauch tweeted. “Death threats against her and her colleagues were brutal reality.” He called the behavior inexcusable.
In June, police identified a German man who was threatening Kellermayr. They opened several investigations into persons unknown.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline by calling 988 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.