Updated February 25, 2014

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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



Click the photo for Thomas Francis's landmark Heimlich expose in Radar Magazine, all about my father's bizarre career -- and why we exposed him   

 
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


If (Dr.) Heimlich is really doing this, he should be put in jail -- Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group re: the Heimlich Institute's "malariotherapy" experiments in which Chinese AIDS patients were infected with malaria from Heimlich maneuvers into AIDS therapy, CNN/Reuters, April 14, 2003

In Spring 2002, my wife Karen and I began researching the career of my father, Dr. Henry J. Heimlich of Cincinnati, famous for the "Heimlich maneuver" choking rescue method.

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.
To our astonishment, we inadvertently uncovered a wide-ranging, unseen 50-year history of fraud.
Our research revealed my father to be a spectacular con man and serial liar, arguably one of history's most remarkable medical humbugs. Armed with considerable charm and an instinct for public relations, he used the media to manipulate the medical profession and to pass himself off as a genius/inventor and humanitarian, eventually being crowned "America's most famous doctor" (The New Republic).

As I told one reporter, "I don't think my father invented anything but his own mythology."


For example, he built the first part of his career -- as a thoracic surgeon -- by falsely claiming to have invented an operation that, in fact, was invented by the prominent Romanian surgeon Dan Gavriliu:



Click here to read the entire article

And few were aware of other problems that resulted in him being fired from his last hospital job in 1977, putting an end to his surgical career.

But by then, as a result of his considerable ability to use the media to his advantage, the choking rescue treatment he claimed to have invented had taken off and he successfully re-made himself into a celebrity doctor.

He also began four decades of promoting unproven medical claims that put lives at risk.





Perhaps the most bizarre is "malariotherapy" -- which over the decades he hyped as a cure for AIDS, cancer, and Lyme Disease -- that consisted of infecting patients with malaria. For decades Cincinnati's nonprofit Heimlich Institute funded and oversaw a series of clandestine offshore experiments on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Via the Cincinnati Enquirer:

(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, 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 dismissed 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 my father and the Heimlich Institute aggressively encouraged the public to perform the Heimlich maneuver on drowning victims.

As we came to understand, apparently my father just dreamed up the idea, then, as  promoted it in medical journals and the popular media. As I told a Houston newspaper:

(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. 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.
Karen and I deep-researched all the cases and discovered that they range from from dubious to outright fraud. For example, in two widely-circulated cases, the "rescuers" were my father's longtime doctor cronies, a fact none of them ever disclosed.

Peter Wernicki MD, medical adviser to the US Lifesaving Association, and Robert Baratz MD PhD, president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, wrote to my father and asked him to provide medical records and other evidence to back up the cases, which he'd been touting for decades. He came up empty.

The result of this 40-year scam perpetrated by my father and his cronies? Dozens of serious injuries and deaths, including children.


We also learned that my father had engaged in fraud and other unethical conduct to promote the Heimlich maneuver for choking. For example, per a New Haven Register article based on our research, in 1985 my father successfully used a now-tainted study by three Yale professors to persuade the American Heart Association to stop recommending any treatment but "the Heimlich" for choking rescue. Neither my father or the professors disclosed that the study was funded by the Heimlich Institute.

We were also troubled to find out about his relationships with hacks, quacks, and narco doctors who lost their medical licenses and went to jail.


I was long aware that my father suffered from some sort of megalomania and extreme narcissism. For instance, after becoming famous, he began claiming he would bring about world peace via Heimlich Institute programs called "Computers for Peace" and "A Caring World." To that end, in 1982 he reportedly considered running for President

He also had an unquenchable need for adulation and to endlessly talk about himself and his accomplishments. For example, take a look at this bizarre infomercial-style biography in which my father "holds court" as my mother (the late Jane Murray Heimlich), my sisters, and others pay tribute to him:




As his son, I knew that behind his public mask of sincerity and enthusiasm, my father had extreme mood swings and an explosive temper. I also knew he was a serial adulterer throughout his decades of marriage to my mother, who described some of that in her 2010 memoir.


But I'd never paid any attention to my father's work. I'd always assumed he was the "medical genius" portrayed for decades in hundreds of media reports.
As I subsequently told documentary maker Aviva Ziegler for her Australian Broadcasting report, as a result of our research, at age 48 I realized that everything I knew was wrong.

Because of his bizarre claims and unethical conduct, by the time we started our research, my father had long been an outcast in the medical profession, relegated to speaking at "naturopathic" conferences and affiliating with animal rights groups that traded on his famous name.


However, because of his famous name, he continued to have access to the mainstream media. And with few exceptions -- like a 1994 LA Times front page expose about gullible Hollywood stars funding "malariotherapy" -- fawning reporters provided him with an uncritical platform to circulate his dangerous hokum and to gin up funds for the Heimlich Institute, which reportedly intended to promote his dangerous medical claims "in perpetuity."


Karen and I didn't want anyone else to be harmed, especially kids who might be future "Heimlich for drowning rescue" statistics. I also wanted to do what I could to make amends for my father's destructive behavior. So in 2002 we decided to bring the facts to public attention via the Internet and the media.


First, we sent an anonymous letter to UCLA in late 2002 regarding university employees who participated in the Heimlich Institute's "malariotherapy" experiments on Chinese AIDS patients. To our surprise, that triggered a widely-reported investigation.

Since then, numerous broadcast and print media stories based on our research have appeared, including this ABC 20/20 expose by Brian Ross:




As the critical stories began appearing, for the most part my father hid, refusing to defend his work to the medical profession or to reporters.

Instead my older brother Phil Heimlich, longtime vice president of the Heimlich Institute (who at that time was a high-profile elected official in Cincinnati), and my younger sister Janet Heimlich, a freelance writer, were enlisted to make false personal attacks against me in the media. For example, in the ABC 20/20 report, my father refused to be interviewed, but Phil and Janet went on camera to defend him and to take digs at me.

As reported by a Cincinnati newspaper, my brother took it too far, resulting in me taking legal action.

Meanwhile, my father hired a Cincinnati PR flak to trash me to reporters while his attorney Christopher Finney hired a private detective to snoop on Karen and me.

It's worth noting that, except for a bizarre 2003 letter from my father, none of them ever attempted to contact me or Karen.


(Voted out of office in 2006, Phil then briefly worked as a "Christian radio" talk show host. [An associate of millionaire evangelist Bill Gothard, in 1981 Phil reportedly had a religious epiphany in a Big Boy hamburger restaurant.] Currently he runs a bedbug control business. Janet, a self-described "intactivist" who campaigns against male circumcision, authored a book about religious child abuse, published in 2011 by Prometheus Books.)


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 smear me in an article intended for the New Yorker magazine, but editor Amy Davidson smelled a rat and refused to publish it. Click here for details. 


Despite the bumps, with the invaluable help of some fine people, we 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:

(The Heimlich Institute's web site, Peter Heimlich) says, "deleted its main pages recommending the Heimlich maneuver as an effective treatment for drowning rescue, to stop asthma attacks and to treat cystic fibrosis."
And according to the organization's 2011 federal tax return, the Heimlich Institute has total assets of $1,000.

Along the way, we ended up uncovering 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 -- except, according to his ex-wife, he called it "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 and a Cincinnati hospital.

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.



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 such as this ABC7 Chicago I-Team report. The thumbnail below shows the organization's founder/president, Carol J. Spizzirri, with Mike "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown at a 2003 ceremony in Washington at which SALF became a FEMA member organization:




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.

Another surprise came in 2005 when the American Red Cross (ARC) "downgraded" the Heimlich maneuver to a secondary treatment response for choking. Click here for a compilation of related media reports.

And the ARC no longer formally uses the name "Heimlich maneuver," but now calls the treatment an abdominal thrust. (According to a January 21, 2013 Cincinnati Enquirer article, my father alleged that he asked "the Red Cross to remove his name from any of its literature and training procedures on choking."
)

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 blogged about Saint Louis University partnering with the doctor who oversaw the Heimlich Institute's notorious "malariotherapy" experiments on Chinese AIDS patients subsequently bounced into the Associated Press and the Riverfront Times.

There are other unreported and under-reported stories tied to my father's unusual career that we hope 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:

Did Henry Heimlich really invent "the Heimlich maneuver"?

My father's autobiography, Heimlich's Maneuvers: My Seventy Years of Lifesaving Innovations, was published in February 2014 by Prometheus Books, based in Amherst, NY. Interestingly, the company was founded by the late Paul Kurtz, a prominent debunker of junk science. Click here for items I've blogged about the book.

Finally, we hope our experiences encourage other rebels, whistleblowers, citizen journalists, and those confronted by misconduct and abuse by family members.




Have information to share re: the subjects listed below or related matters?
Click here for our contact information. Anonymous e-mails may be sent via Anonymouse.

Henry J. Heimlich MD & family; Jane Heimlich & the Murrays; Edward A. Patrick MD PhD & family; Heimlich Institute at Xavier University & Deaconess Associations; E. Anthony Woods, Patrick Ward, Phil Heimlich, 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; Gerson Carr MD; Milton Uhley MD, ventriloquist Paul Winchell, Joanne Carson, other California associates; Ryan Krebs; Kathy Mansoor: Dan Gavriliu, Reversed Gastric Tube (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, Phil Heimlich, Joe Dehner, Stan Chesley, Jon Goodwin, Chris Finney, the late Bishop Herbert Thompson Jr., and other Cincinnati players; narcotics, 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 on Montreal's CJAD-AM, November 20, 2011

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.

 
source





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