Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone July 11, 2023

A COVID-19 vaccine skeptic died, reviving false claims about deaths of alternative medicine doctors

If Your Time is short

  • There is no evidence to support the claim that the recent death of Dr. Rashid Buttar — known for spreading COVID-19 misinformation — and the 2015 deaths of three other doctors were suspicious. 

  • Buttar said in a March interview that he had been hospitalized in January, and information shows he had health issues dating to 2016. 

  • The 2015 deaths involved natural causes, a suicide and a murder in which the victim’s husband was convicted.

The recent death of a doctor who promoted conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines has led some social media users to attempt to tie his death to three deaths eight years ago of other doctors who also practiced alternative medicine.

"RIP Dr. Rashid Buttar," read sticker text atop a video shared July 6 on Facebook. "Let’s remember the alternative medicine doctors who have also died mysteriously."

The video appears to have originated in a July 2 TikTok post, with a caption that read, "Another mystery death of an alternative medicine doctor."

The Facebook video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Buttar, 57, was an osteopathic physician who in 2021 was named as one of the "Disinformation Dozen" in a report by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate. Those 12 doctors, the report said, played a leading role in spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

Buttar died May 18 at his home, according to a statement on Twitter attributed to his family. The Centers for Advanced Medicine, where Buttar practiced in North Carolina, also announced his death. Neither statement listed a cause of death, giving rise to conspiracy theories about it on social media.

Buttar appears to have fueled the speculation himself. The Facebook video about his death cuts to a clip of Buttar saying that if something were to happen to him, it’s because he "was telling the truth, and they don’t want that truth to continue going out there." 

Buttar also suggested he was targeted in interviews he gave shortly before his death. In a March 13 podcast interview, Buttar said he had recently been hospitalized, had suffered a stroke and had been diagnosed with myocarditis and pericarditis symptoms. Buttar, who said he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, blamed his illness on a "secondary inoculation from people who have been vaccinated." 

That describes COVID-19 vaccine shedding, a concept that has been repeatedly debunked. People vaccinated against COVID-19 cannot shed spike proteins to infect other people.

In another interview the day before he died, Buttar claimed that in 2021 he had been "intentionally poisoned" after an interview with CNN. He said he was poisoned with "200 times the amount of what’s in the vaccinations." 

Buttar had health problems that dated to years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a chapter in a book that featured him. 

In the book, Buttar disclosed that he had a history of cardiac problems dating to 2016. He also mentioned the CNN interview, suggesting that a glass of water given to him may have been poisoned, and that he may have been exposed to vaccine shedding at a health conference he spoke at in Spain.

The Facebook video also shares portions of a July 6, 2015, news report from WFTX-TV, a southwest Florida Fox affiliate. That report described what an anchor called a "mysterious" string of deaths of doctors who practiced alternative medicine.

But the deaths were not mysterious or connected. In the weeks after the report aired, the deaths were determined by authorities to be a murder, a death by natural causes and a suicide: 

  • Dr. Teresa Ann Sievers, 46, was found June 28, 2015, bludgeoned to death in her Bonita Springs, Florida, home. A month after the Fox report, police arrested two men in connection with her death. Then in December 2015, authorities also charged her husband, Mark Sievers, with hiring the men and orchestrating the killing, the Fort Myers News Press reported. Mark Sievers was found guilty in 2019. Prosecutors said his motive was to cash in on a life insurance policy. 

  • Dr. Bruce Hedendal, whose name was misspelled "Henendal" in the video, was found dead June 21, 2015, in his car, with "no word on how he died," according to the Fox report. The Palm Beach Florida Weekly reported in August 2015 that Hedendal, 67, had been feeling ill at a track meet he had participated in earlier that day. Police found no signs of foul play, the publication said. 

  • Dr. Jeff Bradstreet was found dead June 19, 2015, according to a snippet of the news report shared in the Facebook video. The full report goes on to say that Bradstreet was found in a North Carolina river with a gunshot wound to his chest. Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office officials said the wound was self-inflicted, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Bradstreet was controversial for claiming that vaccines cause autism and for offering patients an unapproved treatment for cancer and autism. His clinic was raided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a day before his death. Bradstreet’s family disputed that his death was a suicide, but there’s been no public evidence to prove that it was not.

The clip shared on Facebook also said two other doctors — Dr. Patrick Fitzpatrick of North Dakota and Dr. Jeffrey Whiteside from Wisconsin — had "vanished." But there was nothing sinister about their disappearances. 

Fitzpatrick, a retired ophthalmologist, went missing in July 2015 while hiking in Montana. His remains were found in 2018 and no foul play was suspected. Wisconsin authorities said Whiteside, 63, a pulmonologist, went missing June 29, 2015, after a fight with his wife. In August 2015, they said Whiteside died by suicide.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed the deaths of Buttar and three other doctors show that alternative medicine doctors are being targeted for their ideas.

There is no evidence to support the claim that Buttar’s death and the 2015 deaths were suspicious or connected. 

The cause of Buttar’s death has not been revealed, but there’s no evidence that foul play was involved. Buttar said in March that he had been hospitalized, and information shows he had cardiac problems dating to 2016. 

The other three doctors highlighted in the video died in 2015 of natural causes, suicide and a murder in which the motive was insurance money, evidence shows.

We rate the claim False.

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report

Our Sources

Facebook post, July 6, 2023 (live, archived)

TikTok post, July 2, 2023 

PolitiFact, "Licensed doctors who spread COVID-19 disinformation face no consequences, report shows," Sept. 22, 2021

Center for Countering Digital Hate, "Disinformation Dozen," March 24, 2021

Age Management Medicine Group, "In Memoriam: Dr. Rashid Buttar," accessed July 11, 2023

The RSB Show, "Honoring the life of Dr. Rashid Buttar," May 22, 2023

Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, "Dr. Rashid Buttar and the coronavirus agenda," May 18, 2023 

Real Truth Real News, "​​Beautiful tribute: Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson talks about her interview with Dr. Rashid Buttar on May 17th which turned out to be his last as he passed the next day," May 22, 2023 

Dr. Henry Ely, tweet, May 20, 2023

Centers for Advanced Medicine, announcement of Dr. Rashid Buttar's death, accessed July 11, 2023

GreenMedInfo, "The Censorship-industrial complex revealed," March 13, 2023

David Gorski, Science-Based Medicine, "When an antivax physician "dies suddenly": The case of Dr. Rashid Buttar," June 19, 2023

"Poisoned: A deep dive into the mass bioweapon & envenomation agenda," accessed July 11, 2023

Fox 4 Now, WFTX-TV, "Recent trend of doctor deaths raises concern," July 6, 2015

PolitiFact, "Doctors' deaths were not connected, as website claims," April 4, 2017

PolitiFact, "Repeatedly debunked idea of "shedding" COVID-19 vaccines is still false," Nov. 8, 2021

Vice, "After an Anti-Vaccine Figure Dies Suddenly, Conspiracy Theories Abound," May 22, 2023

CNN, "They take an oath to do no harm, but these doctors are spreading misinformation about the Covid vaccine," Oct. 20, 2021

CNN, "Why CNN reporter told this doctor, 'I think you're crazy'," accessed July 11, 2023

Fort Myers News Press, "Who killed Dr. Teresa Sievers? A look at one of Southwest Florida's most notorious murders," Feb. 14, 2020

Naples Daily News, "Mark Sievers found guilty of first-degree murder, may face death penalty," Dec. 5, 2019

The Palm Beach Florida Weekly, "From JFK to 9/11 — Americans crave conspiracies. A spate of doctor murders with Florida ties is spawning new, wild theories.," Aug. 27, 2015

Paramus High School Alumni Association, "Bruce Hedendal - Class of 1965," accessed July 10, 2023 

The Washington Post, "The mysterious death of a doctor who peddled autism ‘cures’ to thousands," July 16, 2015

Gwinnett Daily Post, "Controversial autism researcher, Jeff Bradstreet, commits suicide after FDA raid in Buford, authorities say," updated Jan. 22, 2016

KRTV-3, "Remains of North Dakota man reported missing in 2015 found in Montana," May 3, 2018

The Post-Crescent, "Wis. doctor who went missing after fight with wife ruled a suicide," Aug. 18, 2015

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Jeff Cercone

A COVID-19 vaccine skeptic died, reviving false claims about deaths of alternative medicine doctors

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