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Columnists

Why Are Young People Suddenly Dying? Why Aren’t We Asking Questions?

Earlier this month the Evansville Courier & Press reported that 33-year-old deputy sheriff Aason Hacker died suddenly while participating in training exercises. He fell ill and lapsed into unconsciousness, which he never regained. Any death, especially of a person in the prime of life, is a tragedy. But what’s also tragic is that far too few Americans are aware that over the past couple of years – maybe longer – young people have been inexplicably dropping like flies.

A week earlier, KBZK news in Bozeman, MT reported that a local 40-year-old pastor, Danny Johnson, died of natural causes while working out at a gym.

Hours before, NBC News reported that Matt Pobereyko, a former minor league baseball player died of a heart attack in his home; he was just 31.

Earlier in February, USA Today wrote that Jason Panettiere, a 28-year-old television and film actor, suddenly died due to an enlarged heart. The same malady befell Jamie Cail, the NY Daily News reported that same week, a former Olympic swimmer who died at 42.

It’s happening not only to young adults, but to kids too. WABC TV announced the death of Elijah Jordan Brown-Garcia, a 12-year old who suddenly collapsed during a light football practice.
I could go on, but you get the point. All of this, and more, happened just over the past couple of weeks.

What’s important is to examine this information objectively and dispassionately, not to draw conclusions about who or what is to blame without solid evidence, but also not to ignore the problem.

But first, we need to ask ourselves, is there really a problem? One could argue that in our country, with over 115 million people under 40, even one death per day doesn’t amount to a whole lot. But the more pertinent question is: how many children and young adults are suddenly dying in 2023 as compared to, say, 2018?

I wouldn’t have access to all of this data just by reading my regular morning newspaper or listening to my local evening newscast. It’s only because other sources collect these stories from all around the country on purpose, to make people aware of this phenomenon. The question remains: is there really an increase in these sudden deaths, or has unusually overaggressive reporting made them more accessible to us?

Here’s an answer: in a peer-reviewed article published in the Journal of Medical Virology, researchers from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai reported an almost 30% increase in 2021 in heart-related sudden deaths among Americans between ages 25 and 44.

Ok, so these fatalities are really happening a lot more often. Why don’t more people know about them? Death is not a political issue. If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it’s that dying is bad and staying alive is good.

Why, then, isn’t this the topic of conversation among progressive millennials at a Starbucks in Portland and also among middle-aged conservatives at a VFW Friday night fish fry in rural Oklahoma?

During the height of the pandemic, there was barely a spot on the entire planet where a disease whose survival rate is well over 99 percent did not dominate the discussion. Yet when it comes to actual deaths, of young and evidently healthy people, most of America doesn’t even know any of this is happening.

Morbidly, most people find tragedy irresistible, and so, ratings harlots that they are, news outlets know that death sells newspapers and gets tons of clicks. Why, then, except for a tiny sliver of reporters, is the press holding back?

Predictably and disgustingly, those who’ve spoken out about it have managed to politicize the issue yet again. Some doctors claim that these deaths are side effects of the pandemic due to lack of masking and/or vaccination, while others argue just the opposite, that deprivation of fresh air and sunshine, and/or injection of vaccines not vetted carefully enough are to blame.
But let’s move beyond ‘all-things-virus’. Could the real cause be an increase in drug use, not to mention more lethal substances in the drugs themselves? Could it be that families of the deceased want to keep their loved-ones’ drug habits hush-hush?

Or could there be some new ingredient added to the recipes of countless processed foods that younger people tend to eat, or that disproportionately harms younger people’s anatomies? Or maybe it’s some toxic chemical in the atmosphere?

We don’t know for sure. Just like we don’t know with absolute certainty if the coronavirus was leaked from a Wuhan lab, which authorities now increasingly believe is the case, even though two years ago anyone daring to raise that possibility was excoriated.

The point is, conclusions shouldn’t be drawn prematurely, but neither should possibilities be censored.

Personally, I think the least likely cause is invisible extraterrestrial creatures living among us who just zap our young population to death. And there’s only one thing that would get me to consider that a possibility: a mad scramble by the media to declare that theory “baseless.” (But they’d only do that depending on who proposed it.)

If a sudden death story happens to hit your newsfeed by a source you deem too extreme to be credible, that’s perfectly understandable. In that case, do an Internet search of the deceased’s name and you’ll find it in a multitude of mainstream news outlets that you probably respect. Only you won’t know whether the story was prominently featured or purposely buried where only a specific search could unearth it.

This is the worst case of news suppression since President Wilson suffered a stroke and for months, his wife was substantially running things. We the people need to be aware.

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