Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke May 24, 2021

No, an Ohio doctor didn’t die from the COVID-19 vaccine

If Your Time is short

  • Claims that an Ohio doctor died from the COVID-19 vaccine are unfounded. 
     
  • His wife has said he died due to an undiagnosed aortic dissection.
 

On April 27, an Ohio plastic surgeon named Thomas Flanigan died. His obituary, which went viral, did not list a cause of death. But some social media users took it upon themselves to suggest that he died because of the COVID-19 vaccine he received. 

Two screenshots have been shared side-by-side on Facebook. On the right is an image of the obit. On the left is a Feb. 3 Facebook post from Flanigan. In a photo, he’s holding up his COVID-19 vaccination card.

"Second dose. The microchip is working just fine," he joked. "My mind is slowly being taken over by the hive mind. We are just fine. Resistance is futile."  

Some posts that connect the vaccine to his death chafe at his teasing. One person wrote that he died after mocking the people who are trying to warn the world about an experimental vaccine. 

"Death is never funny," someone else said. "Thomas obviously had a good sense of humor, whether he was mocking us or not. RIP Thomas, wish you didn’t risk your life for a science experiment. It’s one mistake you can never take back."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Featured Fact-check

Claims that Flanigan died because of the COVID-19 vaccine are unfounded. 

We didn’t find any credible evidence that this is true. No news stories mention or suggest this. On May 10, the Toledo Blade reported that Flanigan died "of an undetermined medical issue." 

Still, discussion of Flanigan’s supposed vaccine-induced death continued on a funeral home’s website where visitors could leave their condolences for his family. 

We reached out to the funeral home to ask about the Facebook posts but didn’t hear back. However, comments about the COVID-19 vaccine that were left on the tribute page appeared to have been deleted after PolitiFact contacted the business. 

And Flanigan’s wife, Amy Flanigan, told USA Today that his death was not related to the vaccine. Her husband died from an undiagnosed aortic dissection, she said. The often fatal condition happens when the inner layer of the aorta tears.

We rate claims that he died from the COVID-19 vaccine False.

 

Our Sources

Facebook post, May 5, 2021

Facebook post, May 5, 2021

Facebook post, May 5, 2021

Facebook post, May 8, 2021

Thomas Flanigan Facebook post, Feb. 3, 2021

New York Post, Surgeon, 48, pens incredible obituary to himself before his death, May 3, 2021

Daily Mail, ‘I have completed my shift as the great American cliche’: Surgeon and Army veteran pens incredible obituary to himself before his death aged 48, May 3, 2021

13 ABC, Viral first-person obituary actually written by friends, May 6, 2021

Toledo Blade, Toledo surgeon’s obituary goes viral, May 10, 2021

Mayo Clinic, Aortic dissection, visited May 24, 2021

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Ciara O'Rourke

No, an Ohio doctor didn’t die from the COVID-19 vaccine

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up