Med­i­cal mav­er­ick saved chok­ing vic­tims, dies at 96

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

Henry Heim­lich, the med­i­cal mav­er­ick who came up with a ma­neu­ver cred­ited with sav­ing thou­sands of chok­ing vic­tims but who dam­aged his stand­ing as a pro­po­nent of the cu­ra­tive pow­ers of malaria, died on Satur­day at the age of 96.

Heim­lich, a doc­tor who de­vel­oped a life­sav­ing tech­nique to dis­lodge air­way block­ages through a wellplaced, force­ful hug from be­hind, died at Christ Hos­pi­tal in Cincin­nati of com­pli­ca­tions from a mas­sive heart at­tack he suf­fered on Monday, his fam­ily said in a state­ment.

A tho­racic sur­geon who often feuded with the es­tab­lished med­i­cal com­mu­nity, Heim­lich said the ma­neu­ver named af­ter him saved more than 100,000 lives. He claimed to have used it him­self in May on an­other res­i­dent of the Cincin­nati re­tire­ment home where he lived.

“It made me ap­pre­ci­ate how won­der­ful it has been to be able to save all those lives,” he once told the Cincin­nati En­quirer.

Heim­lich came up with the ground­break­ing tech­nique in 1974 af­ter read­ing about the high rate of deaths in restau­rants that first were at­trib­uted to heart at­tacks, but later found to have been caused by din­ers chok­ing on food.

The pop­u­lar wis­dom at the time called for re­peat­edly slap­ping the back of a per­son strug­gling with an ob­struc­tion of the pas­sage to the lungs.

But Heim­lich, who was then at Jewish Hos­pi­tal in Cincin­nati, be­lieved the back slaps could force the block­age deeper.

The Heim­lich ma­neu­ver called for the res­cuer to stand be­hind the chok­ing vic­tim, ap­ply the thumb-side of a fist to a spot just un­der the di­aphragm and be­tween the lungs. By push­ing sharply on that spot, a surge of air from the lungs would then ex­pel the block­age.

Heim­lich wrote about his dis­cov­ery for a med­i­cal jour­nal and it be­gan to spread due to me­dia cov­er­age. The many peo­ple whose lives have thus been saved in­clude former US pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan and the ac­tresses Mar­lene Di­et­rich and El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor.

But he was also the cen­ter of con­tro­versy more than once. Heim­lich had ad­vo­cated the use of the ma­neu­ver for other pur­poses — to save drown­ing vic­tims or to help asthma suf­fer­ers — that never gained a fol­low­ing.

And in his later years, he had ad­vo­cated ex­pos­ing AIDS vic­tims to malaria, a treat­able dis­ease, to boost their re­sis­tance.

Henry Heim­lich be­came fa­mous for tech­nique to dis­lodge air­way block­ages

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