Updated August 19, 2019

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Media reports that resulted from our efforts
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What the experts say about Peter & Karen's work
I've been investigating medical fraud and quackery for 25 years. Peter Heimlich and his wife Karen uncovered the biggest case I've ever seen -- Robert S. Baratz MD PhD, National Council Against Health Fraud

Your crusade is a major plus for medicine and for the American public. So, as a member of both communities, I thank you -- Alan Steinman MD MPH, Rear Admiral (ret.) US Coast Guard, author, US Coast Guard water safety manual

Peter Heimlich has worked tirelessly to uncover a fascinating, yet little known chapter of medical history, one with as much human intrigue as you would expect from a John LeCarre novel -- Charles W. Guildner MD (ret), former consultant, American Heart Association

Peter Heimlich's relentless and successful effort to expose the truth has been an inspiration to lifesavers everywhere -- B. Chris Brewster, President, US Lifesaving Association

You have the soul of an investigative reporter -- Rhonda Schwartz, ABC News Senior Investigative Producer, in a Spring 2007 phone call with Peter

I applaud your commitment to continuing to clear up these issues -- Michelle Jantz, Manager, Operations and Program Administration, Preparedness and Health and Safety, American Red Cross, Washington DC

Medical experts speak out against my father's history of misconduct

My father's history of abusing colleagues

Click the photo for Thomas Francis's landmark Heimlich expose in Radar Magazine about my father's bizarre career -- and how & why we exposed him as a remarkable and dangerous charlatan.

Outmaneuvered: How we busted the Heimlich medical frauds

by Peter M. Heimlich (bio and contact info)

Please do not understand me too quickly
-- Andre Gide

Better not to begin. Once you begin, better to finish it. (source)

Perhaps the most challenging question raised by my story is one that confronts most people in one form or another: When we become aware of wrongdoing committed by a family member, how do we choose to respond? -- Peter

(The Heimlich manoeuvre) has never been used in Australia. Despite the claims of the extremely charismatic Dr. Heimlich, Australian resuscitation experts believe that there isn't enough scientific evidence to support its use. So how does a medical procedure become so widely adopted without any serious scientific evidence? -- The Heimlich manoeuvre by Aviva Ziegler, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, July 27, 2009

There was never any evidence here. Heimlich overpowered science all along the way with his slick tactics and intimidation, and everyone, including us at the (American Heart Association) caved in. -- Roger White MD, Mayo Clinic from A New Maneuver by Pamela Mills-Senn, Cincinnati Magazine, April 2007

Those organizations that originally advocated adoption of the (Heimlich maneuver) on such shaky grounds, albeit with reservations, cannot be held entirely blameless for what followed. The wave of publicity given the measure by well intentioned, but uncritical, persons has been remarkable...The maneuver is so well fixed in the public mind as the only solution for foreign body airway obstruction that to correct the situation would be like trying to recover the contents of a feather pillow released from a church steeple. -- Joseph S. Redding MD, The choking controversy: critique of evidence on the Heimlich maneuver, Critical Care Medicine, October 1979

The "malariotherapy" experiments in China, conducted for over a decade by Dr. (Xiaoping) Chen in conjunction with Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute, have been called "atrocities" by the World Health Organization. Medical experts have condemned the work as "charlatanism of the highest order." Research subjects included prisoners who were controlled by hired guards. In one case, a woman with full-blown AIDS, suffering from pneumonia and hooked up to oxygen, was infected with malaria. -- Peter quoted in St. Louis University Under Fire for Work with Doctor Who Infected AIDS Patients with Malaria by Sam Levin, Riverfront Times, September 9, 2013

"(Dr. Heimlich's) ideas are insane," (Robert S. Baratz MD PhD of the National Council Against Health Fraud) said. "Some of his ideas are delusional. He has been experimenting on human beings for most of his career, and he's no different than the Nazi experimenters. There isn't one iota of scientific basis for this except that Heimlich said so." (Portland Tribune, April 13, 2007)

If (Dr.) Heimlich is really doing this, he should be put in jail -- Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group via Heimlich maneuvers into AIDS therapy, CNN/Reuters, April 14, 2003

From Spring 2002 through 2007, my wife Karen M. Shulman and I deep-researched the career of my father, Dr. Henry J. Heimlich of Cincinnati, famous for the "Heimlich maneuver" choking rescue method. To our astonishment, we inadvertently uncovered a wide-ranging, unseen 50-year history of fraud.

Since Spring 2003, our research and my outreach to journalists have been the basis for scores of mainstream print and broadcast media reports which exposed my father as a remarkable -- and dangerous -- charlatan.

Via a November 2005 Radar Magazine article, here's what triggered our interest:

For the first 48 years of his life Peter distanced himself from his father's career and celebrity. A year or two might slip by between calls from his parents. But in 2001, Peter says, he learned of serious health problems in his family. He refuses to say what those problems were, but he insists he was appalled to learn that his father was refusing to address them.

"My father's the great Dr. Lifesaver," Peter says bitterly. "How could he have let this happen?" When he tried to get the facts, he says, his father hung up on him and his mother wouldn't respond to his letters.

Peter and Karen began to wonder whether there were other family secrets worth looking into as well.

Our research revealed my father to be a wolf in sheep's clothing - a spectacular con man, serial liar, and arguably one of the most successful medical humbugs of the late 20th century. Armed with considerable charm and an instinct for public relations, my father used the media to pass himself off as a medical genius/inventor and humanitarian, eventually being crowned "America's most famous doctor" (The New Republic).

My father spent much of his career lying to journalists, many of whom failed to fact check his claims. Undoubtedly as a result, many if not most obituaries published after his death on December 17, 2016, contained factual errors. (As reported by the Washington Post, in response to my requests, corrections were published by the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Cincinnati Enquirer, and National Public Radio.)

A thoracic surgeon by training, my father built the first half of his career on this lie that was reported on the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer on March 16, 2003 -- the story was based on our research and outreach to the paper:

In May 1977, after a series of problems, he was was fired from his last medical job as Chief of Surgery at Cincinnati's Jewish Hospital. A June 3, 1977 memo from my father to hospital president Warren C. Falberg confirms that: "You are well aware that my termination from the hospital was not initiated by me and that I did not resign." He never again practiced surgery because he couldn't obtain malpractice insurance.

By then, as a result of my father's considerable skills at public relations -- as I told a reporter, "He could teach P.T. Barnum a few tricks" -- the Heimlich maneuver was taking off and he spent the rest of his career being a celebrity doctor and running the nonprofit Heimlich Institute. (Since 2005, the organization hasn't had any employees and has been nothing but a website. According to the Heimlich Institute's 2014 IRS return, it has $1080 in total assets.)

Needless to say, legitimate scientists keep notes detailing the development of their ideas and inventions. However, to my knowledge my father has never produced a single document that would substantiate his claims to have invented what came to be called "the Heimlich maneuver" or any of the products he patented under his own name.

As I told a reporter, "I don't think my father invented anything but his own mythology." Nevertheless, because he was a medical "brand name," for decades the media - especially in Cincinnati where he was a local celebrity - gave him endless opportunities to relentlessly circulate a string of crackpot medical treatments and weird self-serving lies. For example, on May 26, 2016, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an article entitled At 96, Dr. Heimlich finally uses his life-saving technique. The story reported that a few days before, my father performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking woman named Patty Ris who was sitting next to him at a table in the dining room of Cincinnati's Deupree House, the upscale retirement home where my father and Ris live.

My father told the Enquirer, the New York Times, and WCPO-TV News that it was the first time he had ever performed his namesake treatment to revive a choking victim.   However, as I informed the Enquirer in a May 27, 2016 corrections request, from 2001-2006 my father had told reporters at publications including the BBC, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the New Yorker that in 2001 he claimed to have performed the treatment on a choking victim at Cincinnati's Banker's Club restaurant.

A few hours after I sent my request, the Enquirer published a major re-write exposing his lie.

Via reporter Christine Hauser's May 27, 2016 New York Times story:

A BBC article in 2003 quoted (Dr. Heimlich), then 83, describing a similar encounter where he tried the maneuver on a fellow diner, a man, although the story lacked details such as a precise date, location and name. A New Yorker article in 2006 made reference to a similar incident, also without details. But a son, Phil Heimlich, said his father had never mentioned any previous incidents to him. The doctor himself did not return a follow-up call.

Subsequent reports published in McKnight's and Slate and questioned whether the retirement home incident was a publicity stunt. My June 14, 2016 blog item raised further questions about the veracity of the tale.

Perhaps dad's most bizarre medical claim was "malariotherapy," a quack cure for AIDS, cancer, and Lyme Disease that consists of infecting patients with malaria. For decades Cincinnati's nonprofit Heimlich Institute funded and
oversaw a series of illicit offshore experiments on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals which were the subject of investigations by three federal agencies (CDC, FDAJustice Dept.) and UCLA.

In the 1990s, according to How Dr. Heimlich Maneuvered Hollywood Into Backing His Dangerous AIDS "Cure" by Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, August 14, 2014, my father persuaded dozens of
well-meaning, but gullible celebrities -- including Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Bette Midler, and Muhammad Ali -- to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to infect AIDS patients with malaria.

(Dr. Heimlich's) experiments - which seek to destroy HIV, the AIDS-causing virus, by inducing high malarial fevers- have been criticized by the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration and condemned by other health professionals and human rights advocates as a medical "atrocity.''

Per this ABC7 Chicago I-Team report (in which my father refused to be interviewed and literally hid behind my mother), since 2005 the Heimlich Institute has been nothing but a website which, until recently, aggressively promoted the Heimlich maneuver as a cure-all for drowning, asthma, cystic fibrosis, even heart attacks:

All of these treatments have been thoroughly discredited by medical experts as useless and potentially lethal. For example, the use of the Heimlich maneuver to resuscitate drowning victims has been warned against as useless and potentially lethal by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and other organizations. Nevertheless, for decades the Heimlich Institute put the public at risk by promoting this and my father's other dangerous medical recommendations.

As we came to understand, my father simply dreamed up these claims, then promoted them in journals and the popular media using evidence that ranged from shabby to fraudulent. For example, we researched a string of case reports in which he claimed drowning victims had been miraculously revived by the Heimlich maneuver. They're all phony. The results? Dozens of serious injuries and deaths, including children.

We also learned that, because of his delusional claims and unethical conduct, my father had long been an outcast in the medical profession. Nevertheless, for decades the popular press continued to portray him as a medical icon and provided him with a media platform to promote his unfounded, dangerous claims.

I was long aware that my father suffered from some sort of extreme narcissism that manifested itself as an unquenchable need for adulation and endlessly talking about his accomplishments. Reporter Jason Zengerle, who in 2005 conducted multiple interviews with my father, told me he thought my father suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

long those lines, here's a bizarre 1999 infomercial-style biography in which my father "holds court" as my mother (the late Jane Murray Heimlich), my sisters Janet Heimlich and Elisabeth Heimlich, my aunt Cecilia Rosenthal (his sister), and others "pay tribute" to him:

I also knew that behind a public mask that exuded sincerity and enthusiasm, my father had extreme mood swings and an explosive temper. He lied easily and was a serial adulterer throughout the decades of marriage to my mother, an heiress who financially supported him through most of his career. (My mother described some of my father's philandering in her 2010 memoir.) But I'd never paid any attention to my father's work. I'd always assumed he was a "medical genius" as he was portrayed for decades in hundreds of media reports.

Then at age 48, as a result of our research I came to realize everything I knew was wrong and that my father's thinking was seriously disordered, a condition that made him a danger to others and to himself.

Karen and I didn't want anyone else to be harmed -- especially kids who might be future "Heimlich for drowning" statistics -- so in 2002 we decided to bring the facts to public attention via the Internet and the media in order to expose the "poison ideas" circulated by my father and the Heimlich Institute (which, at the time, intended to promote his dangerous claims "in perpetuity").

Since then,
scores of print and broadcast media stories based on our research have been reported, including this June 2007 ABC 20/20 report by Brian Ross, Is Dr. Heimlich really a savior? which resulted from my outreach to Rhonda Schwartz, Senior Producer at ABC's investigative unit. The story includes interviews with AIDS expert Anthony Fauci MD from the National Institutes of Health, emergency medicine expert Peter Rosen MD, animal rights activist Neil Barnard MD, my brother Phil Heimlich, my sister Janet Heimlich, and me (they shot some footage of Karen, but didn't use it) -- my father refused to be interviewed:

As the critical stories began appearing, for the most part my father hid, refusing to defend his work to inquiring physicians (for example, here and here) or to reporters. Instead, he enlisted Phil and Janet to fight his battles.  Without ever attempting to contact me or my wife, Phil and Janet joined forces and began making false and defamatory personal attacks against me which, per this Cincinnati newspaper article, resulted in me taking legal action.

Phil is a former elected official in Cincinnati who used to make headlines for his hard-right political stances: handing over public assets to private interests, working to deny civil rights to gay citizens, trying to shut down adult bookstores, gun rights, and so forth. (Phil reportedly became a "born again Christian" in 1981 after experiencing a religious epiphany in a Big Boy hamburger restaurant.)

Janet -- a freelance writer who rails against male circumcision -- wrote a book about relgious child abuse which neglected to mention that Phil is associated with millionaire evangelist Bill Gothard, whose ministry has been the subject of media reports about alleged child abuse. In March 2014, Gothard resigned in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Why were Phil and Janet willing to put their reputations on the line to defend our father's dangerous medical claims and to go on the warpath against me without ever trying to contact me or my wife and discuss the situation?

For one thing, both live off of our parents' money, most of which was inherited from my late mother's father, dance studio mogul Arthur Murray. Also, for decades my brother has been the vice president of the Heimlich Institute -- and my father's errand boy/hatchet man.

In addition to protecting their source of income, presumably they were also worried about me bringing to light serious family medical problems as well as my father's history of associating with doctors who lost their medical licenses and went to jail for the excessive prescribing of narcotics, one of whom is a longtime, close friend of my brother's.

Also, a dominant rule in my parents' family was to hide problems in the interest of maintaining an appearance of distinction and success. My mother's inherited fortune helped facilitate that objective and her money could buy enablers within and outside the family.

For example, Christopher Finney -- my father's attorney and my brother Phil's political mentor and business partner -- employed a private detective to snoop on me, and my father hired a Cincinnati PR flak named Robert Kraft to trash me in news stories.

Now-disgraced "super lawyer" Stan Chesley even got into the act, sending Karen and me a couple of lame proffer letters. (We didn't respond.) There were also some dodgy reporters. For example, a political writer named Jason Zengerle set out to write a smear article about me for The New Yorker, but editor Amy Davidson smelled a rat and spiked his story. Later I learned why Zengerle, who works for The New Republic magazine, targeted me. Click here for more details.  

Despite those bumps along the way, with the invaluable help of medical experts, journalists, and others, Karen and I persevered and accomplished much of what we set out to do.

For example, as reported by the Houston Press, on about May 15, 2012, about ten years after we began researching my father's career:

(Peter Heimlich says the Heimlich Institute's web site) "deleted its main pages recommending the Heimlich maneuver as an effective treatment for drowning rescue, to stop asthma attacks and to treat cystic fibrosis."

..."(My father's) claims were based on nothing but a handful of skimpy cases in which near-dead drowning victims were 'miraculously revived' by the maneuver," he says. "Despite such thin evidence, for decades The New York Times, CBS News, Inside Edition and scores of other media outlets gave him a platform to urge the public to perform the Heimlich on people who were drowning."

Why was the information finally scrubbed from the website? As reported by the University of South Florida's campus newspaper, I made it clear that I planned to go after the organization's nonprofit status:

(Peter Heimlich said the removal of the information) happened shortly after he sent an email to (Heimlich Institute executive director Patrick) Ward and the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Another surprise came in 2005. After we uncovered that in 1985 my father had defrauded US first aid organizations in order to convince them to promote the Heimlich maneuver over other choking rescue methods, the American Red Cross (ARC) "downgraded" the Heimlich maneuver, making it a secondary treatment response for choking. Click here for a compilation of related media reports. Further, the ARC, the American Heart Association, and ILCOR now call the treatment an "abdominal thrust."

In this American Red Cross video, emergency medicine expert David Markenson MD explains that abdominal thrusts, chest thrusts, and back blows are considered equally effective treatments for responding to a choking emergency and that a combination of these treatments may be more effective:

(The Heimlich manoeuvre) has never been used in Australia. Despite the claims of the extremely charismatic Dr Heimlich, Australian resuscitation experts believe that there isn't enough scientific evidence to support its use. So how does a medical procedure become so widely adopted without any serious scientific evidence?

Along the way, we ended up uncovering and bringing to public attention some other jaw-dropping scams and scammers.

For example, there was my father's 30-year protege, the late Dr. Edward A. Patrick, who, per his singular full-page obituary in the British Medical Journal, claimed to be the uncredited co-developer of the Heimlich maneuver -- which, according to his ex-wife, he called "the Patrick maneuver."

An outlandish character who sported an unkempt Elvis-style wig, for decades Patrick worked in scores of hospitals on seven state medical licenses he obtained using bogus credentials supplied by my father.

In a strange twist of fate, Patrick died just days after he lost a high-profile lawsuit against a Cleveland newspaper that published a cover story expose about him, Playing Doctor. He's buried in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he was born and raised.

Then there's the Save-A-Life Foundation scandal. My father was "medical adviser" to SALF, a high-profile, politically-connected Chicago nonprofit that since November 2006 has been the subject of dozens of media exposes about the organization and its founder/president, Carol J. Spizzirri.

As I reported, FEMA dumped Spizzirri's organization shortly before it folded in September 2009. According to the June 26, 2013 Duluth Telegraph Herald, SALF is under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General for the "possible misappropriation" of $9 million in federal and state tax dollars. And Spizzirri reportedly now lives in a mobile home park in San Marcos, California.

In 2010, I started doing original reporting via my blog, The Sidebar, which serves as an outlet for newsworthy information I turn up and as a platform for me to develop stories to pass along to mainstream journalists. For example, a story I first blogged -- about Saint Louis University partnering with the Chinese doctor who oversaw the Heimlich Institute's notorious "malariotherapy" experiments on AIDS patients -- subsequently bounced into the Associated Press and the Riverfront Times. (A January 19, 2017 New Jersey newspaper article -- about a successful public records lawsuit in which I was the plaintiff -- called me an "investigative blogger.")

There are still important unreported and under-reported stories about my father's unusual career that we plan to bring to public attention, including an alleged $9 million payment to the Heimlich Institute by gold mining companies to fund the Heimlich Institute's "malariotherapy" experiments in Africa.

There's also this biggie: Per an August 21, 2005 Boston Herald report: Did my father really invent "the Heimlich maneuver"?

Finally, we hope our improbable odyssey encourages other rebels, whistleblowers, citizen journalists, and those who are confronted with family misconduct and abuse to speak out.

Questions? Just ask.

Inquiries are always welcome as is information re: the subjects listed below (in no particular order) and related matters. Click here for our contact information. Anonymous e-mails may be sent via Anonymouse.

Henry J. Heimlich MD; Jane Heimlich; Elisabeth Heimlich; the Heimlichs and prescription drug abuse; Phil Heimlich; Jon Goodwin; narco doctors Gerson Carr, Ryan Krebs, Milton Uhley; Edward A. Patrick MD PhD & family; Heimlich Institute at Xavier University & Deaconess Associations; E. Anthony Woods, Patrick Ward, Barbara Lohr; Carolyn Pence Siemers; Michele Ashby, the Denver Gold Group, and the "malariotherapy" experiments in Africa; John L. Fahey MD, Xiaoping Chen, and the "malariotherapy" experiments in China; Victoria Wulsin MD, PhD; Rotary International; Ronald Sacher MD; Charles Pierce MD; Victor Esch MD; Ron Watson, Terry Watkins, Denise Schmidt RN, Billy Lindner, Natasha Stuckey, Tyronne Stuckey, Todd Schebor, Jack Baker, etc; Jeff Ellis & Associates, Larry Newell; National Aquatic Safety Company (NASCO), John Hunsucker PhD; Jewish Hospital; Heimlich Valve & other inventions associated with my father; ventriloquist Paul Winchell, Joanne Carson, other California associates; Kathy Mansoor: Dan Gavriliu and the Reversed Gastric Tube Operation (RGT); James M. Fattu MD, Harry Gibbons MD, Glen Griffin MD, Rustum Roy PhD, other associates; "the Heimlich" for asthma, Hilary Hagan, Stephanie Hagan; Isaac Piha, Irene Bogachus; Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), Carol J. Spizzirri, Rita Mullins, Ciprina Spizzirri, Douglas R. Browne, John Donleavy; Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), Neal Barnard MD, John J. Pippin MD; the Heimlich Group (NY); 1986 University of FL drowning study; 1982 Richard Day study (Yale); Jason Zengerle, Claire Farel MD; Robert Kraft, Joe Dehner, Stan Chesley, Jon Goodwin, Chris Finney, the late Bishop Herbert Thompson Jr., and other Cincinnati players; sexual misconduct, etc.

"The Heimlich Manoeuvre" (audio & transcript) 30 min. audio documentary by Aviva Ziegler Australian Broadcasting Corporation, July 27, 2009

Click here for Dr. Joe's interview with Peter

From the
June 1, 2011 Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor's popular poetry reading feature on public radio

From Report on the Advanced Study Weekend with Dr. Heimlich, The McDougall Newsletter, February 2005:

Many people attending the weekend considered the experience to be almost mystical - an experience never to be forgotten - the experience of being in the presence of and listening to the inspiring words of Dr. Henry Heimlich - the man who has saved more lives than anyone else in human history....To preserve the memory of this event, all interested participants had an opportunity to have their pictures taken with Dr. Hemlich [sic] performing the maneuver on them.

Copyright @ 2008 Peter M. Heimlich, all rights reserved