The film “Died Suddenly” rehashes debunked claims and conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines
Data from vaccine safety monitoring programs indicate that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and not associated with any increase in mortality or sudden deaths. While certain COVID-19 vaccines have been associated with a slightly increased risk of blood clotting and heart inflammation, these conditions are more likely to result from COVID-19 itself than from vaccination.
Inadequate support: Without a pathological analysis that takes into account the clinical history of the person, images of blood clots alone don’t provide sufficient evidence of an association between these clots and COVID-19 vaccines. No evidence suggests that vaccines are causing a rise in mortality. Therefore, claims that they are used for depopulation are baseless.
Misleading: Many of the people that the film implied to have died after vaccination are actually alive. Others died of causes unrelated to vaccination, such as accidents and underlying medical conditions.
On 21 November 2022, a pseudo-documentary titled “Died Suddenly”, co-produced by radio host Stew Peters, premiered on Twitter and the video sharing platform Rumble. Through a series of interviews, the film, which is approximately one hour long, rehashed conspiracy theories and numerous previously debunked claims to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines caused deaths.
The film went extremely viral within hours, garnering more than 13 million views on Rumble and almost two million views on Twitter as of 8 December 2022. Posts sharing the film received more than 280,000 additional interactions on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, according to the social media analytics tool CrowdTangle. In addition, websites sharing links to the film received over 750,000 interactions.
Prominent individuals such as former U.S. congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine, websites such as LifeSite News, and conspiracy groups who shared the film on social media aided this spread. But most of the film’s impact likely relied on heavy promotion by a dedicated Twitter account that goes by the handle @diedsuddenly. The account was created on 5 October 2022 with the release of a two-minute promotional trailer that also went viral on social media.
Lead Stories fact-checked the trailer, explaining that it used out-of-context screenshots and clips that didn’t demonstrate any link between COVID-19 vaccines and sudden death. An article in Forbes described the film as “a mish-mosh of clips, audio bytes, interviews, and other things often taken completely out of context and cooked together like a gigantic conspiracy theory frittata”.
Indeed, the film is a collection of anecdotes, headlines, and testimonials that don’t support the claim that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous. Overall, the film conveys the message that COVID-19 vaccines are deadly, and this effect was somehow intended and orchestrated by global elites to depopulate the world.
Data from safety surveillance on billions of people contradict this claim, showing that the vaccines are safe, that severe reactions are extremely rare and vaccines have saved many lives by preventing severe COVID-19. This review will analyze the central claims in the film and explain why they are unsupported, and in some cases, outright false.
Images of blood clots don’t demonstrate that these clots are abnormal nor linked to COVID-19 vaccines
The first part of the film stitched together interviews with several embalmers in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.—some of them unnamed or unidentifiable—all revolving around the central testimony of embalmer Richard Hirschman.
Hirschman and the others claimed to have found anomalous “white fibrous clots” that looked like “calamari” in most of the corpses they embalmed. Many of them claimed that they only started seeing these clots after COVID-19 vaccination, implying that the vaccines caused the clots. For example, the film showed someone identified as an embalmer, but whose face was blurred out, claiming that, “it certainly appears that there is some relationship to the vaccine and these obstructions”.
Some embalmers also implied a link between the vaccines, the clots, and cases of people who “just dropped dead without explanation”. In addition, disturbing images of blood clots and people collapsing in public spaces are littered throughout the film. Overall, the film creates a distressing atmosphere that further pushes the narrative that COVID-19 vaccines caused the blood clots and those people’s deaths.
But as Health Feedback explained in earlier reviews, images of blood clots and embalmer testimonials are insufficient evidence to claim a link between COVID-19 vaccines, blood clotting, and sudden death. And the content of the film doesn’t provide any new evidence that changes that.
Several experts explained to Health Feedback and other organizations that abnormal blood clotting can result from many causes unrelated to COVID-19 vaccines. These include smoking, obesity, sedentarism, and specific underlying pathologies. For example, COVID-19 itself is also a much more likely cause of blood clotting than vaccination[2,3]. Blood clotting also happens after death and from refrigeration and embalming.
Therefore, drawing meaningful conclusions about the clot’s origin and role in the person’s death requires a pathological analysis that takes all these factors into account. However, neither Hirschman nor the other embalmers offered any information about the source of the clots, the vaccination status of the people from whom they were supposedly removed, and their clinical history.
Instead, the film relies on anecdotes, personal beliefs, and unproven assumptions. The comments from one embalmer who didn’t identify himself illustrate the unscientific approach of the film: “I’m seeing all of these strange clots, I’m hearing stories of blood clots, and embolisms, and sudden heart attacks. Scientists say there has been an increased rise, a sharp rise in unexplained deaths during the pandemic, deaths that are not listed as COVID-19-related”. However, hearing about things alone doesn’t necessarily mean that they are true or that the COVID-19 vaccines caused these events.
Several embalmers explained to PolitiFact that they had indeed noticed an increase in the presence of blood clots. But contrary to the claims, these clots appeared in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who had died of COVID-19, some of them “long before vaccinations were available”.
Therefore, while abnormal blood clots can and do occur in embalmed corpses, no evidence suggests that COVID-19 vaccines caused these clots. On the contrary, mRNA vaccines may actually reduce the likelihood of clotting by preventing severe COVID-19, which is a major risk for developing blood clots.
Featured interviews rehashed previously debunked claims
In support of its claims, the film featured interviews with several individuals known for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines in the past. Among them are pathologist Ryan Cole, obstetrician James Thorp, army surgeons Theresa Long and Pete Chambers, and entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, whom MIT Technology Review described as a “misinformation superspreader”. In general, all of them attributed different medical problems to the COVID-19 vaccines, from fertility issues to cancer, neurological issues, and heart disease.
Kirsch claimed without any supporting evidence that “The vaccine can kill you in two different ways”, in the short term or through blood clotting in the longer term—specifically, in five months. We reached out to Kirsch to ask for evidence and will update this review if/when we hear back.
However, none of them provided new evidence or data. Instead they repeated older claims that were mostly based on misinterpreted studies and misused data from vaccine surveillance systems like the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Health Feedback already reviewed most of these claims and found them to be inaccurate and unsupported by scientific evidence.
Certain—but not all—COVID-19 vaccines have been associated with a slight increase in the risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome and rare cases of blood clotting and heart inflammation. However, such cases are rare and less likely to occur following vaccination than from COVID-19.
Multiple studies showed no association between COVID-19 vaccination and the risk of cancer or pregnancy complications[5-8]. In fact, pregnant women are strongly recommended to get vaccinated against COVID-19 since they are at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 and COVID-19 increases the risk of pregnancy complications[9,10]. By reducing the risk of severe COVID-19, vaccination thus improves the outcomes for both the mother and the baby.
There is also no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines increase mortality risk in younger people. For example, a 2022 analysis by the U.K. Office of National Statistics found no evidence of a change in the number of cardiac-related deaths or deaths occurring from any cause following COVID-19 vaccination in young people aged 12 to 29 years in 2021.
Another study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with more than ten million people showed that COVID-19 vaccination is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality.
Some people that the film implied to have died are actually alive; others died of causes unrelated to vaccination
Both the trailer and the film claimed that if you search on Google the term “died suddenly” you get countless stories of healthy young people who are “dropping dead” without explanation, allegedly due to COVID-19 vaccines. Within this narrative, the film showed tens of distressing headlines and images of people collapsing.
This juxtaposition may mislead viewers into believing that those headlines and images are of people who died following vaccination. However, that is false. A quick Google search of some of the names shows that many of these people are actually alive.
One such case is a clip of a basketball player collapsing during a match. A reverse image search revealed that this person was Florida Gators basketball player Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed during a game on 14 December 2020. Contrary to what the film suggested, Johnson is alive and returned to play in early November 2022. Furthermore, he collapsed the same day the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in the U.S., when COVID-19 vaccines were still prioritized for healthcare workers and the elderly population. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Johnson even received a vaccine before he collapsed.
Another case is the Argentinian nutritionist Teresa Coccaro, who fainted during a TV show. Coccaro, who is well and alive, later explained that she fainted due to a fall in blood pressure.
The film featured multiple other cases of people who are alive or whose death was clearly unrelated to COVID-19 vaccines because it was due to other causes or happened before the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Likewise, @diedsuddenly was tweeting similar cases since its creation, like the case of a four-year-old boy who died in Argentina. One tweet presented him as “the face of Argentina’s national vaccination campaign”, suggesting a link between his death and vaccination. However, the death of this boy, who was named Santino Godoy Blanco, was unrelated to vaccination. As Health Feedback explained in an earlier review, an autopsy determined that the boy died due to a lung infection.
The term “died suddenly” has been used widely as dog whistle to convey the message that certain unexpected deaths are linked to COVID-19 vaccination. Therefore, by featuring a list of people who purportedly “died suddenly”, the film implied that their deaths were related to COVID-19 vaccination.
However, not only did the film not offer any evidence indicating such a link, but many of the people featured in the film are still alive. Other cases featured in the film were indeed deaths, but these occurred before the COVID-19 vaccines were available or were due to causes unrelated to the vaccination.
The film promoted debunked conspiracy theories about world depopulation
There have been persistent conspiracy theories linking either vaccination in general or COVID-19 vaccines in particular to a plan from global elites to depopulate the world. However, these have been debunked numerous times. Proponents of these theories often refer to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and concepts such as Agenda 2030 and The Great Reset. “Died Suddenly” represents yet another iteration of such claims.
Several tweets posted on the “Died Suddenly” Twitter account already contained such implications before the film’s premiere. One of these tweets claimed that “This planned genocide must be EXPOSED, and will be”.
The full video emphasized this implication from the very beginning. The film began with the claim, “U.S life insurance companies have reported an overwhelming and unexplainable increase in all-cause deaths among 18 to 49-year-olds”. Following this opening, the film showed multiple news headlines and out-of-context clips of prominent personalities talking about overpopulation.
One of the first clips featured a 2016 Tom Hanks interview for NBC’s Today TV show. During the interview, Hanks briefly mentioned the controversial Malthusian Theory, proposed by the 18th-century economist Thomas Malthus, which postulated that the high rate of population growth would eventually exhaust food resources.
However, the film took Hanks’ comments out of context. Far from pushing ideas of depopulation, Hanks was promoting his latest movie “Infernum”, in which the Malthusian theory was central to the plot.
The film then showed a 2010 TED Talk in which Gates talked about new technologies that could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Gates cited population as one factor that influences emissions, stating, “The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s headed up to about nine billion. Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by, perhaps, 10 or 15 percent.”
The film interviewed funeral director Chad Whisnat about Gates’ statement. Whisnat interpreted Gates’ words to mean that “somebody’s going to die because you put a vaccine in them”. But this is a gross misinterpretation of Gates’ comments.
This TED talk has been misused before to support depopulation conspiracy theories. However, Gates was referring to his belief that when more children survive into adulthood, parents tend to have fewer children. As Health Feedback explained in an earlier review, Gates believes that reducing childhood mortality can slow population growth. An Annual Letter by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation explained that this can be achieved by improving healthcare and vaccine coverage.
Towards the film’s end, a Funeral director claimed, “this has been well planned, this is Agenda 2030, this is The Great Reset. FullFact explained before that these are global sustainability plans promoted by the United Nations and the World Economic Forum respectively to address global issues, such as inequality and climate change. However, neither of them is legally binding nor contains plans to depopulate the world or create a new order.
Other parts of the film pointed to depopulation conspiracies even more explicitly. One example is army surgeon Theresa Long who, referring to COVID-19 vaccines, claimed, ”this was a bioweapon unleashed against Humanity with the intent to depopulate and control the population of the world”.
It is true that U.S. life insurance companies have reported an increase in excess deaths among their customers in 2021. But AP News and PolitiFact explained, a high proportion of those deaths can be directly attributed to COVID-19. In addition, others might have resulted indirectly from COVID-19 due to delayed medical treatments, for instance.
The claim that COVID-19 vaccines are part of a depopulation plan is false, as many news and fact-checking organizations explained. Furthermore, such a claim goes against real-world evidence, which suggests that the COVID-19 vaccines have saved millions of lives.
The film “Died Suddenly” is a stockpile of unsettling images, anecdotes, and debunked claims stitched together to give the impression that there is ample evidence indicating that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous. However, that isn’t the case. All available evidence indicates that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 and death. Therefore, and contrary to the claims in the film, COVID-19 vaccines save lives.
In an article for Science-Based Medicine, Benjamin Schmidt, a professor of mortuary science at the Northeast Texas Community College, analyzed the images of blood clots shown in the film, explaining that “The removal of clots of all shapes and sizes is a hallmark of an embalming going well and is exactly what we would expect and hope to see”. Schmidt also described the different types of blood clots that can be observed during embalming and explained how factors such as time and temperature can influence their appearance.
UPDATE (8 December 2022):
After this review was published, YouTube removed three copies of the film with hundreds of thousands of views “for violating the platform’s community guidelines”. We updated the film’s number of views and interactions to better reflect its virality following this review’s publication. In addition, we included a link to an article Science-Based Medicine under the Read More section.
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