Karl Lauterbach

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Karl Lauterbach
MJK 67604 Karl Lauterbach (Bundestag 2020).jpg
Lauterbach in 2020
Minister of Health
Assumed office
8 December 2021
ChancellorOlaf Scholz
Preceded byJens Spahn
Member of the Bundestag
for Leverkusen – Cologne IV[1]
Assumed office
18 October 2005
Preceded byErnst Küchler
Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic Party in the Bundestag
In office
22 October 2013 – 24 September 2019
LeaderFrank-Walter Steinmeier
Thomas Oppermann
Andrea Nahles
Rolf Mützenich
Preceded byFlorian Pronold
Succeeded byBärbel Bas
Spokesperson for Health of the SPD Group in the Bundestag
In office
27 October 2009 – 22 October 2013
Preceded byCarola Reimann
Succeeded byHilde Mattheis
Personal details
Karl Wilhelm Lauterbach

(1963-02-21) 21 February 1963 (age 59)
Düren, North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany
Political partyCDU (before 2001)
SPD (2001–present)[2]
Angela Spelsberg
(m. 1996; div. 2010)
Alma materUniversity of Düsseldorf
Harvard University
ProfessionMedical doctor

Karl Wilhelm Lauterbach (German pronunciation: [kaʁl ˈlaʊ̯tɐˌbax] (listen); born 21 February 1963)[3] is a German scientist, physician, and politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) who has served as Federal Minister of Health since 8 December 2021. He is professor of health economics and epidemiology at the University of Cologne (on leave since 2005).[4] Since the 2005 federal elections, he has been a Member of the Bundestag (the federal parliament of Germany). During the COVID-19 pandemic, his name became well known in Germany, through his frequent appearances on television talk shows as an invited guest expert, along with his frequent use of Twitter to provide commentary about the ongoing pandemic.[3]

Education and career[edit]

Lauterbach studied human medicine at the RWTH Aachen University, University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Düsseldorf, where he graduated. From 1989 to 1992, he studied health policy and management as well as epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, graduating with a Doctor of Science in 1992.[3] From 1992 to 1993, he held a fellowship at the Harvard Medical School, sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is close to the CDU. Lauterbach was a CDU member for several years before joining the SPD in 2001.[5]

From 1998 until 2005, Lauterbach served as the director of the Institute of Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology (IGKE) at the University of Cologne, and was subsequently on leave from that role due to his tenure in the Bundestag.[4] He was appointed adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2008.[1] He was a member of the Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der Entwicklung im Gesundheitswesen (the council of experts advising the federal government on developments in the German healthcare system) from 1999 until he was elected to the Bundestag in September 2005.[6] He was a member of the Rürup Commission, a government-appointed committee of experts that was established to review the financing of the social insurance systems.[7]

Political career[edit]


Lauterbach made his entry to the Bundestag with a direct mandate by winning in his electoral district Leverkusen – Cologne IV at the 2005 federal elections. Between 2005 and 2013, he served on the Health Committee. Within the SPD parliamentary group, Lauterbach belongs to the Parliamentary Left, a left-wing movement.[8]

Ahead of the 2013 federal elections, Peer Steinbrück included Lauterbach in his shadow cabinet for the SPD's campaign to unseat incumbent Angela Merkel as Chancellor. During the campaign, he served as shadow minister of health. In the negotiations to form a government following the elections, he led the SPD delegation in the health working group and his co-chair from the CDU/CSU was Jens Spahn. From 2013 until 2019, he served as deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group under the leadership of successive chairpersons Thomas Oppermann (2013–2017) and Andrea Nahles (2017–2019).

Appointed by Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe, Lauterbach served as member of an expert commission on the reform of Germany's hospital care from 2015 until 2017.[9] From 2018 until 2019, he chaired an expert commission advising Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller on strategies for the city's health sector.[10][11]

In the 2019 SPD leadership election, Lauterbach announced his intention to run for the position as the party's co-chair, together with Nina Scheer.[12][13] He has since been serving on the German Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection and its Subcommittee on European Law.

In the 2021 German federal election, Lauterbach comfortably won the seat in Leverkusen and thus secured his return to the Bundestag, in spite of not having been nominated at a top place in the SPD's party list.[1] In the negotiations to form a so-called traffic light coalition of the SPD, the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) following the 2021 federal elections, Lauterbach was part of his party's delegation in the working group on health, co-chaired by Katja Pähle, Maria Klein-Schmeink and Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus.[14]

Minister of Health[edit]

On 6 December 2021, Lauterbach was designated as Federal Minister of Health in the traffic light coalition.[5] He assumed the office on 8 December 2021 when the Scholz cabinet was formally appointed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Due to Lauterbach's high profile in Germany as a media commentator on the COVID-19 pandemic, The Economist's Berlin correspondent Tom Nuttall described his nomination to the cabinet as "perhaps the most eagerly awaited health minister appointment in the history of the democratic world".[15]

A week into his tenure, during a visit to Hanover, Lauterbach expressed concerns that Germany might be headed towards a much stronger fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, specifically for the omicron variant. He also said he expected the country to suffer from a vaccine shortage in the first quarter.[16]

Other activities[edit]

Corporate boards[edit]

Non-profit organizations[edit]

  • German Foundation for Consumer Protection, member of the Board of Trustees (since 2019)[17]
  • Muhanna-Stiftung, member of the Board of Trustees
  • German United Services Trade Union (ver.di), member

Political positions[edit]

Lauterbach is a strong advocate of the so-called Bürgerversicherung, mainly favoured by the Social Democrats. The idea includes the reorganization of the German health system and the incorporation of all people and all income groups into the financing of the health care system.[18]

Along with Swen Schulz, Otto Fricke, Katrin Helling-Plahr and Petra Sitte, Lauterbach was one of the authors of a cross-party initiative in 2021 to liberalize the legal framework for assisted suicide in Germany.[19]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lauterbach quickly rose to national prominence. He served as an advisor of Chancellor Angela Merkel during the pandemic.[1] He became well known to a wide audience through his frequency of appearances – an unsurpassed 30 by 17 December 2020 – as guest expert in talk shows,[20] as well as his frequent use of Twitter.[5][3] Early on in the pandemic, during the first lockdown from April to June 2020, he often cautioned against the negative effects of premature relaxation of restrictions.[21] Later he was one of those who warned early of a second wave of the pandemic.[3] In August 2021, he criticized state governments – education is managed by individual states in Germany – for what he saw as their poor pandemic preparation for the upcoming school year, and proposed to limit travelling by long-distance trains to those with a recent negative COVID-19 test, the vaccinated, and the recovered (the '3G rule').[22] For his views he became the target of intense hatred by many COVID-19 deniers[1] and anti-vaxxers, frequently receiving death threats.[5] However, his reputation was believed to have contributed to his strong result in the 2021 federal election.[1]

More recently in April 2022, he was a target of a foiled kidnapping attempt by far-right extremists.[23]


In May 2021, several months ahead of the national elections, Lauterbach admitted on Twitter that he had been late to declare to the German Parliament's administration a total of 17,850 euros in additional income he had received the previous year as an advance payment for a book deal.[24]

In April 2022, prosecutors announced publicly that they had detained four people suspected of plotting to kidnap Lauterbach and destroy power facilities to cause a nationwide power outage.[25]

Personal life[edit]

In 1996, Lauterbach married epidemiologist and physician Angela Spelsberg. They have four children together. The two divorced in 2010 after having separated in 2004. Lauterbach has a further child from another relationship.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Karl Lauterbach wird neuer Bundesgesundheitsminister". Deutsches Ärzteblatt (in German). 6 December 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  2. ^ "Karl Lauterbach: "Ich kann in Berlin viel bewegen". RP. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Weckesser, Luisa (18 May 2021). "Karl Lauterbach: Familienvater, Mediziner und Twitter-Liebhaber". Frankfurter Rundschau (in German). Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  4. ^ a b Rees, Jürgen (6 December 2021). "Professor Karl Lauterbach ist neuer Bundesgesundheitsminister (Press Release, Faculty of Medicine, University of Cologne)". University of Cologne (in German). Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Kinkartz, Sabine (6 December 2021). "Germany taps epidemiologist as new health minister". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  6. ^ Prof. Dr. Dr. Karl Lauterbach, MdB – Politischer Werdegang. SPD NRW (in German)
  7. ^ Rieser, Sabine (May 2003). "AG Krankenversicherung der Rürup-Kommission: Zahlmodell für die Bürger, Wahlmodell für die Politiker". Deutsches Ärzteblatt (in German). Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  8. ^ Members Parliamentary Left.
  9. ^ Expertenkommission "Pflegepersonal im Krankenhaus" Federal Ministry of Health, press release of 1 October 2015.
  10. ^ Ergebnisbericht der Zukunftskommission „Gesundheitsstadt Berlin 2030“ vorgestellt Senate of Berlin, press release of 25 March 2019.
  11. ^ Heine, Hannes (5 July 2019). "Der Regierende als Wissenschaftssenator: Wie Michael Müller aus Berlin eine Forschungsmetropole macht". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  12. ^ Nahles-Nachfolge: Schwan und Stegner bewerben sich für SPD-Vorsitz Der Spiegel, 14 August 2019.
  13. ^ Tobias Buck (2 October 2019), SPD looks to leadership roadshow to put party back on track Financial Times.
  14. ^ Staeck, Florian (21 October 2021). "Gesundheit und Pflege: Wer für SPD, Grüne und FDP verhandelt". Ärzte-Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  15. ^ Tom Nuttall [@tom_nuttall] (6 December 2021). "Perhaps the most eagerly awaited health minister appointment in the history of the democratic world looks likely to deliver a surprise. Karl Lauterbach, scourge of the previous govt's covid policy, is set to get the nod after all" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ "Tysklands helseminister advarer om "massiv" femte coronabølge" (in Norwegian). ABC Nyheter. 17 December 2021. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  17. ^ Board of Trustees German Foundation for Consumer Protection.
  18. ^ Woratschka, Rainer (24 July 2017). ""70 Prozent der Privatversicherten würden wechseln" (Interview with Karl Lauterbach)". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  19. ^ Günther Neufeldt (26 February 2021), Sterbehilfe - Keine Garantie, aber weniger Hürden ZDF
  20. ^ Sternberg, Jan; Christ, Johannes (17 December 2020). "Karl Lauterbach ist der Talkshowkönig 2020" (in German). RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  21. ^ Schulte, Ulrich (25 April 2020). "Karl Lauterbach über Covid-19: "Die Pandemie ist schrecklich"". taz.de (in German). Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  22. ^ May, Philipp (31 August 2021). ""Wir laufen auf eine Durchseuchung der Kinder zu" (Interview with Karl Lauterbach)" (in German). Deutschlandfunk. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  23. ^ Welle (www.dw.com), Deutsche. "German police arrest far-right extremists over plans to 'topple democracy' | DW | 14.04.2022". DW.COM. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  24. ^ Laurenz, Nike (24 May 2021). "Auch SPD-Politiker Lauterbach meldet Honorare nach". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  25. ^ Maria Sheahan (14 April 2022), German health minister says would-be kidnappers aimed to destabilise state Reuters.

External links[edit]