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Are Henry Heimlich and Edward Patrick

Medical Heroes, or Fast Talking

Medical Con Men?


Henry Heimlich   Edward Patrick
heimlich_henry_lasker_300h   patrick_crop-univ-cincinnat

The Heimlich/Patrick Controversy

While the Heimlich Maneuver is widely accepted and has saved many lives, the co-discoverers of the method, Henry Heimlich and Edward Patrick, wallow in controversy. It appears, that having tasted great success and wide public acclaim with the Heimlich Maneuver, each wanted continued acclaim-possibly at the cost of sound scientific method. It is this accusation, that they promoted other lifesaving techniques that do not work, that has brought their reputations into question.

The following section presents a brief overview of the controversies and provides relevant links to source documents. Is there a dark side to Henry Heimlich? We encourage you to investigate this fascinating tale of accusation and denial-then decide for yourself. You can weigh the evidence and cast your vote on how much esteem they deserve.

Heimlich's son exposes the "Heimlich Medical Frauds"

Crusaders against medical fraud are not unheard of. But, it's certainly extraordinary to discover the primary accuser of Dr. Henry Heimlich is his own son, Peter. Holding a BS in Journalism, Peter has researched and written extensively about his father's medical activities. In fact, he has established a Website dedicated to detailing his father's questionable medical practices:

"Facts prove that for 30 years, my father made up a string of crackpot medical treatments which he then relentlessly promoted by any means, including the fabrication of data and case reports."
--Peter M. Heimlich, son of Dr. Henry Heimlich

The Website is a scathing litany of decades-long questionable practices, perpetrated in plain public view, by the famous Dr. Heimlich. Peter strongly believes both the media and the medical community were complicit in allowing Dr. Heimlich to make extraordinary-and scientifically unproven-claims his Heimlich Maneuver can be used for maladies other than choking, and that he has discovered lifesaving techniques for other diseases. Among the most serious of Peter's accusations are the following:

-That Dr. Heimlich "cooked up a string of phony cases" to promote the Heimlich Maneuver for use with drowning victims. Peter points out that though no first aid organization supports its use-the American Heart Association speaks of its potential danger and directly recommends against its use.

-That Dr. Heimlich claims his maneuver will stop asthma attacks, though he has produced no conclusive scientific evidence.

-That Dr. Heimlich also claims his maneuver will cure cystic fibrosis, a claim Peter says appears to be the "result of delusional thinking."

Read the other claims at Peter's website.

What the Scientific Community Says about the use of the Heimlich Maneuver for Other Purposes

Critics contend Heimlich and Patrick ignored sound science, made false claims and inappropriately promoted the Heimlich Maneuver for use in unproven, potentially dangerous treatments. One of the most highly criticized uses of the Heimlich Maneuver is its application with drowning victims. Both Patrick and Heimlich contend their maneuver is a safe and effective use for drowning victims, and they point to "thousands of lives" saved through the use of the Heimlich Maneuver. In fact, Patrick wrote a 1981 case report detailing his personal experience in saving a two-year-old drowning victim, in the emergency room, by using the Heimlich Maneuver.

Critics, however, contend the Heimlich Maneuver is both unsafe and unproven in treating drowning victims. Neither the American Heart Association (AHA) nor the American Red Cross recommends using the Heimlich Maneuver on drowning victims. The AHA, in fact, points to potential dangers in using the technique.

The most serious allegation against Dr. Heimlich concerns his use of induced malaria to treat other diseases. The therapy, known as Induced Malariatherapy (IMT), is regarded with great skepticism within the medical community. Heimlich contends the therapy will not only cure AIDS, but multiple cancers and Lyme disease. After failing to receive permission to conduct clinical trials in the United States, Heimlich forged ahead and commissioned trials of IMT on AIDS patients in both China and Ethiopia. In these trials, Heimlich infects patients with malaria, allows it to run its course for three weeks, and then administers malaria medications to stop the disease. He says doing so will "strengthen their immune systems" and help patients fight the other diseases.

Critics are appalled. They say there is no scientific evidence that Induced Malariatherapy is effective. In 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rejected the Heimlich Institute's request to conduct IMT clinical trials, stating the trials could neither be justified scientifically nor ethically. In 2007, Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, said of the therapy, "It is scientifically unsound, and I think it would be ethically questionable."

Is Dr. Patrick All he Claims to Be?

Edward Patrick is not without his own controversies. Possibly the most serious allegation against Dr. Patrick concerns the use of the Heimlich Maneuver with drowning victims. Critics question the case (known as the "Lima Case") of a near drowning victim he claims to have saved with the Heimlich Maneuver. The case was widely reported and provided the foundation for Heimlich and Patrick to claim the maneuver was effective for drowning victims. Allegations have also arisen about his residency in emergency medicine and his representation of his medical credentials.

Why did Heimlich and Patrick Promote Scientifically Unproven Lifesaving Techniques?

Henry Heimlich and Edward Patrick were successful, well-respected physicians. They'd invented a lifesaving technique, the Heimlich Maneuver, which was widely accepted within the medical community and by the public at large. Heimlich in particular, once dubbed "America's most famous doctor" by The New Republic, enjoyed the status of a celebrity. Why then did these two physicians embark on a decades-long journey that embroiled them in controversy? Why did they pursue dubious and dangerous applications of the Heimlich Maneuver with little, if any, scientific evidence to back up their claims?

It is purely psychological speculation, but their critics contend the fame the pair garnered from inventing the Heimlich Maneuver primed the pump but, ultimately, was just not enough attention. Heimlich's son, Peter, says his father was driven by "a ravenous need for attention and adulation." Having tasted the success once, he wanted to taste it again and again.

Is the Heimlich Maneuver the Best Way to Help a Choking Victim?

The Heimlich Maneuver was integrated into the American Red Cross guidelines for choking victims in 1976. The guidelines called for an initial intervention of back slaps to dislodge the foreign object. If these failed, then the Heimlich Maneuver was to be used. But, in 1985, the American Red Cross dropped the recommendation to first use backslaps. Instead, for the next two decades, through 2005, the Heimlich Maneuver was the only recommended intervention. Then, in 2006, things changed once again. Though few are aware of the changes, the American Red Cross essentially reverted to their 1976 standards of intervention: first, a series of backslaps and, if these fail, then the Heimlich Maneuver.

The reason for both sets of changes, though never directly addressed by the American Red Cross, remains a point of contention. Peter Heimlich contends his father used "dirty tricks" to promote the Heimlich Maneuver over other, possibly more effective methods. Patrick also played a significant role in promoting the widespread use of their technique, as evidenced by his communication with then Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop. Even with the 2006 American Red Cross changes, both Heimlich and Patrick continue to contend the Heimlich Maneuver is superior.

For its part, the American Red Cross is adopting a "business as usual" demeanor. They've not addressed, nor even acknowledged, the controversies surrounding their most recent changes. Instead, they say the changes simply occurred as the result of a routine evaluation of emergency procedures they conduct every five years. They indicate they found "no evidence the Heimlich Maneuver works better than back blows," and that this finding resulted in implementing the new "old" guidelines.

The Verdict

Most evidence indicates the Heimlich maneuver saves lives of choking victims. It's the additional claims that make one question the reputations of Henry Heimlich and Edward Patrick. Should they be esteemed as preeminent men of science? Should they be held out to school children as heroes? Or, like the bright, but attention starved boys acting out in class, have they earned the fitting rebuke of quietly being ignored?

The question remains: Do we hold them up as heroes-or ignore them for their infamy?

...What's your verdict?

Additional Links related to the questionable Heimlich medical treatments:

Dr. Heimlich's son, Peter Heimlich's, critical website, Outmaneuvered:

The Quackwatch Website:

Timeline of the Heimlich Maneuver, compiled by Peter Heimlich:

The website of The Heimlich Institute:

News report video clips (at bottom of page) that question the use of the Heimlich Maneuver:

A Case Report by Dr. Patrick on his use of the Heimlich Maneuver to save a drowning victim:
Case Report by Dr. Patrick

The Heimlich Institute website page on using the Heimlich Maneuver with drowning victims:

An ABC News blog entry about IMT:

The 1993 CDC report expressing their disagreement with IMT:

The website of The Heimlich Institute:

Links related to the controversies surrounding Patrick:

A 2005 Cleveland Scene news report detailing allegations of misrepresentation against Patrick:

A 2008 Cincinnati Beacon blog summary about Patrick losing a libel suit against the Cleveland Scene for the accusations made in the above story:
Cincinnati Beacon blog summary

The complete 2008 U.S. District Court ruling dismissing Patrick's libel suit against the Cleveland Scene:

The article detailing the dismissal of Patrick's libel suit.

Links related to the use of the Heimlich Maneuver:

Correspondence between Dr. Patrick and C. Everett Koop:

A 2006 Vermont newspaper article about the changes in the American Red Cross guidelines:

The American Red Cross website page on Choking Emergencies:

The website of The Heimlich Institute: