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Karl Lauterbach

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Karl Lauterbach
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 61)
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] ; 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 German federal election, he has been a member of the Bundestag (the German parliament).

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany, his name became well known 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]

Early life and education[edit]

Lauterbach studied human medicine at the RWTH Aachen University, University of Texas at San Antonio and graduated from the University of Düsseldorf. 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.[4] 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] In 2003, 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]

He was appointed adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2008.[1]

In the majority (16th) Bundestag and in opposition (17th Bundestag)[edit]

At the 2005 federal elections Lauterbach made his entry to the Bundestag with a direct mandate by winning in his electoral district Leverkusen – Cologne IV . He was part of the governing coalition until 2009, when his party went into opposition. 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]

Shadow Minister of Health (18th and 19th Bundestag)[edit]

Ahead of the 2013 federal elections, Peer Steinbrück included Lauterbach in his shadow cabinet for the SPD's campaign to unseat incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel. 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]

2019 SPD leadership bid and COVID-19 advisor to Merkel[edit]

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.

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,[14] 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.[15] 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').[16] For his views he became the target of intense hatred by many critics[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]

Minister of Health (20th Bundestag)[edit]

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.[17]

In 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 COVID-19 pandemic, The Economist' described his nomination to the cabinet as "perhaps the most eagerly awaited health minister appointment in the history of the democratic world".[18]

At his formal induction ceremony, Lauterbach said: "Health policy, as I see it, can only be successful when it’s anchored in evidence-based medicine."[19] On 10 December, the Bundestag passed a healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccine law, which was to come into effect on 15 March 2022. Lauterbach told the Bundestag that: "Such a vaccine mandate is necessary because it is completely unacceptable that at the end of the second year of this pandemic [despite Deltacron infection surge], Germans who live in care homes die unnecessarily because workers there are unvaccinated."[19]

On 11 December 2021, the Washington Post celebrated Lauterbach's appointment to Health Minister. Its headline read "Germany’s ‘Fauci,’ a Harvard-educated doctor, gets ready to tackle the pandemic", while it noted that the Health Ministry has an annual 56 billion euro budget.[19] A week into his tenure during a visit to Hanover after Merkel's retirement, Lauterbach expressed concerns that Germany might be headed towards a much stronger fourth wave of COVID-19, fueled by Deltacron hybrid variant that is combined of Delta and Omicron mutations. However, Lauterbach also said that he expected the country to suffer from a vaccine shortage in the first quarter.[20]

On 16 February 2022, Lauterbach said that German federal government will be easing COVID-19 restrictions alongside two neighboring countries, Austria and Switzerland, in the following words: "We can withdraw the restrictions step-by-step, but we should continue to be careful". However, on 28 March 2022 despite Germany reported 305,000 COVID-19 Deltacron cases, Lauterbach said that Germany will be lifted all COVID-19 restrictions up by 8 April, although COVID infections was "no longer increasing".[citation needed] As of May 2022, Germany has surpassed 140,000 COVID-related-deaths, a highest mortality toll.

On 14 April 2022, German federal 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.[21][22]

On 18 May 2022, Lauterbach announced government plans to spend an additional 830 million euros on COVID-19 vaccines.[23] On 19 May, Lauterbach expressed his approval of the Federal Constitutional Court's ruling that COVID-19 vaccines could be mandated for healthcare workers, in the following words: "The state is obliged to protect vulnerable groups."[24]

In August 2022 despite COVID Deltacron infection surge, Lauterbach announced his plans to submit for Parliamentary approval a new wave of COVID-19 measures: Masks would be mandatory on planes, trains, and long-distance buses from October 2022 to April 2023. Mask would be mandatory indoor public events, on local public transportation, and in schools, universities, and colleges.[25]

On 13 October 2022, the ringleader of plot to kidnap Lauterbach was arrested. However, plotters were opposed to the federal government’s COVID-19 measures amid Deltacron infection surge, and they were intent on "Triggering civil war-like conditions in Germany and thus ultimately bringing about the overthrow of the federal government and parliamentary democracy."[26]

On 26 October 2022, Lauterbach presented a cornerstone paper on planned legislation to regulate the controlled distribution and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes among adults.[27]

On 28 November 2022, Lauterbach was said to be one of the main targets of a suspected terrorist group of conspirators that was rounded up by German federal police. However, the terrorist group planned his kidnapping, among other things. The terrorists planned to act during a talk show appearance of his, and in the further course of events, a coup was to be incited.[28]

In October 2023, Lauterbach participated in the first joint cabinet retreat of the German and French governments in Hamburg, chaired by Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron.[29][30]

Other activities[edit]

Corporate boards[edit]

Non-profit organizations[edit]

  • German Foundation for Consumer Protection, member of the Board of Trustees (since 2019)[31]
  • Muhanna-Stiftung, member of the Board of Trustees
  • German United Services Trade Union (ver.di), member

Political positions[edit]

As of 2017, Lauterbach was 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.[32]

Lauterbach was one of the authors of a cross-party initiative in 2021 to liberalize the legal framework for assisted suicide in Germany, along with Swen Schulz, Otto Fricke, Katrin Helling-Plahr and Petra Sitte, .[33]

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]

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.[34]


In 2020 Lauterbach was awarded with die Salomon Neumann medal by the German society for social medicine and prevention DGSMP. [35]

In 2022 he won the social media award Der Goldene Blogger as "Twitter account of the year". [36]


  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. 11 September 2013. 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). Archived from the original on 2 March 2022. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Kinkartz, Sabine (6 December 2021). "Germany taps epidemiologist as new health minister". Deutsche Welle. 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" Archived 11 August 2020 at the Wayback Machine 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. ^ Sternberg, Jan; Christ, Johannes (17 December 2020). "Karl Lauterbach ist der Talkshowkönig 2020" (in German). RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland. Retrieved 7 December 2021.
  15. ^ Schulte, Ulrich (25 April 2020). "Karl Lauterbach über Covid-19: "Die Pandemie ist schrecklich"". taz.de (in German). Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  16. ^ May, Philipp (31 August 2021). ""Wir laufen auf eine Durchseuchung der Kinder zu" (Interview with Karl Lauterbach)" (in German). Deutschlandfunk. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  17. ^ Staeck, Florian (21 October 2021). "Gesundheit und Pflege: Wer für SPD, Grüne und FDP verhandelt". Ärzte-Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 6 December 2021.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ a b c Glucroft, William (11 December 2021). "Germany's 'Fauci,' a Harvard-educated doctor, gets ready to tackle the pandemic". Washington Post.
  20. ^ "Tysklands helseminister advarer om "massiv" femte coronabølge" (in Norwegian). ABC Nyheter. 17 December 2021. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  21. ^ Maria Sheahan (14 April 2022), German health minister says would-be kidnappers aimed to destabilise state Reuters.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ "Germany OKs more COVID-19 vaccine spending for this fall". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. 18 May 2022.
  24. ^ "Germany's top court approves vaccine mandate for health workers". euronews. Associated Press. 19 May 2022.
  25. ^ "Germany announces new Covid measures for fall, expecting another wave of infections". CNBC LLC. All Rights Reserved. A Division of NBC Universal. 3 August 2022.
  26. ^ "German woman arrested over plot to kidnap Health Minister Karl Lauterbach". Al Arabiya Network. 13 October 2022.
  27. ^ Alkousaa, Riham (26 October 2022). "Germany to legalize cannabis use for recreational purposes". Reuters.
  28. ^ tagesschau.de. "Geplante Lauterbach-Entführung: Verdeckter Ermittler kannte Details". tagesschau.de (in German). Retrieved 28 November 2022.
  29. ^ Sarah Marsh and Andreas Rinke (9 October 2023), Germany, France hold unprecedented cabinet retreat to oil creaky EU motor Reuters.
  30. ^ Erste deutsch-französische Kabinettsklausur: Zukunftsfragen und Weltpolitik diskutiert Cabinet of Germany, press release of 10 October 2023.
  31. ^ Board of Trustees German Foundation for Consumer Protection.
  32. ^ Woratschka, Rainer (24 July 2017). ""70 Prozent der Privatversicherten würden wechseln" (Interview with Karl Lauterbach)". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  33. ^ Günther Neufeldt (26 February 2021), Sterbehilfe - Keine Garantie, aber weniger Hürden ZDF
  34. ^ Laurenz, Nike (24 May 2021). "Auch SPD-Politiker Lauterbach meldet Honorare nach". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  35. ^ DGSMP (21 September 2021). "Pressemitteilung: 56. Jahrestagung der DGSMP". DGSMP (in German). Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  36. ^ "Lauterbach bekommt "Goldenen Blogger" für Twitter-Account". www.t-online.de (in German). 26 August 2022. Retrieved 3 February 2023.

External links[edit]