The family of Grammy-winning singer Celine Dion revealed in late summer 2023 that she was dying following her diagnosis of stiff-person syndrome.
In September 2023, a rumor was shared online that posited that the sister of Celine Dion had said the Grammy-winning singer was dying. The claim was promoted by an apparent celebrity gossip YouTube channel named Culture Covered.
The title of the video read, "Celine Dion's Family Reveals How She Is Dying."
The YouTube video received just over 33,000 views. At the same time, we found that the same video was then republished in three parts on TikTok, where it collectively received well over 744,000 views.
The video appeared to feature the voice of a narrator that had been generated by artificial intelligence (AI). The clip began as follows:
Very sad news coming in from Celine Dion's family, as the sister of the legendary singer just revealed that Celine is now in severe, constant pain, and there's nothing that can be done anymore to help her. And her incurable disease is progressing very quickly. So, for those of you who don't know, Celine was diagnosed with a rare, progressive, neurological disorder called stiff-person syndrome, which affects only about 1 in a million people. It has no known cause and and unfortunately there is no cure.
It's true that Dion had announced in December 2022 that she was diagnosed with stiff-person syndrome.
It was also true that Dion's sister, Claudette, had been interviewed for a HELLO! Canada story that was published on Aug. 31, 2023, in which she had said that her sister was experiencing spasms and pain:
"It's an illness we know so little about," admits Claudette, candidly reflecting on symptoms linked to the syndrome. "There are spasms – they're impossible to control. You know who people often jump up in the night because of a cramp in the leg or the calf? It's a bit like that, but in all muscles," she says, dismayed. "There's little we can do to support her, to alleviate her pain."
However, as for the YouTube video's title, the claim that Dion's sister or other family members had made a public statement to say she was dying had been fabricated.
Personnel for Johns Hopkins Medicine published on the institution's website information about the chances of death for someone experiencing the disease:
Death from stiff person syndrome is rare and typically does not result from the disease itself but from its complications such as blood clots or wound infections due to immobility. In some extreme cases, spasms of the chest muscles can affect a person's ability to breathe.
According to the "page transparency" section of a Facebook page that appeared to be linked to the Culture Covered, the people behind this video and others on the YouTube channel may have resided in India.
YouTube channels like Culture Covered, including Just In, Viral Vision, Spill Today and others, have been cropping up in the last year or so, usually publishing false information with misleading thumbnail images.
For example, we previously published that Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey did not, in fact, make public remarks about the film "Sound of Freedom," despite a claim to the contrary coming from one of these YouTube channels. Similarly, actor Tom Selleck did not, in fact, attack "The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg for something she said, nor did actor Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) panic after entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey supposedly revealed some sort of lies about the Maui wildfires that scorched parts of the Hawaiian island in August 2023.
From what we could tell, the vast majority of the commenters under these YouTube videos usually didn't mention that they recognized the falsehoods in the clips, nor did they say anything of the AI-generated narration.
For more information on Dion's condition and stiff-person syndrome, we recommend one of our previous stories that debunked a death hoax about the singer.
Etienne, Vanessa. "Celine Dion's Rare Condition Is a 'Horrible Disease' Says Woman with Stiff Person Syndrome." People.com, Dec. 15, 2022, https://people.com/health/celine-dion-rare-condition-horrible-disease-says-woman-with-stiff-person-syndrome/.
Killingsworth, Michael. "Celine Dion 'praying for a Miracle' amid Stiff Person Syndrome Battle, Sister Says: Exclusive." HELLO! Canada, Aug. 31, 2023, https://www.hellomagazine.com/healthandbeauty/health-and-fitness/501397/celine-dion-sister-health-update-stiff-person-syndrome-recovery/.
Liles, Jordan. "Celine Dion Death Hoax Misleadingly Rehashes Old Health News." Snopes, Aug. 1, 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/celine-dion-health-death-hoax/.
"Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS)." Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/stiff-person-syndrome-sps.