Our research revealed my
father to be a spectacular con man and serial
liar, arguably one of history's most successful
- and destructive - medical humbugs. 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).
to his public image, my father was an
incompetent surgeon - fired for
misconduct from his last medical job in 1977
appropriated ideas from other doctors and
attached his name to them. Facts indicate that
he probably didn't even invent what came to be
known as "the Heimlich maneuver." 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.
Perhaps the most
bizarre is "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
the Cincinnati Enquirer:
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
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
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
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,
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,
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. For
example, take a look at this unusual
infomercial-style biography in which my
father holds court as my mother (the late Jane
Murray Heimlich), my sisters, my aunt (his
sister), and others "pay tribute" to my father:
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
freelance writer who advocated quack medicine,
some of my father's philandering in her 2010
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").
numerous broadcast and print media stories
based on our research have been
reported, including this ABC 20/20 expose by
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 father enlisted
my older brother Phil and my younger sister
Janet to defend him.
Phil -- a failed elected official who
now runs a bedbug detection business --
became a "born again" Christian right around
the time a
close friend was convicted and went to
federal prison for five years in a massive
prescription narcotics operation in Detroit.
At the time, my brother says he
had a religious epiphany in a Big Boy
Janet -- a freelance writer concerned
about male circumcision -- wrote a
book about relgious child abuse which
neglected to mention that our brother 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 abuse allegations.
attempting to contact me or Karen, Phil &
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.
Why were my siblings 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 even trying to
contact me or my wife?
For one thing, they live off of our parents'
money, most of which was inherited from my
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 family medical problems to
which I alluded in Radar Magazine and
the Portland Tribune 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.
Meanwhile, my father's attorney employed a
private detective to snoop on me and a
Cincinnati PR flak was hired to trash me in news
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 the bumps along the way, with the
invaluable help of some fine people who recognized
the importance of our efforts, 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:
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."
..."(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."
(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
Inquiring minds might wonder why, for decades, a
purported medical organization put lives at risk and
apparently only stopped doing so when its tax status
was threatened. In any event, the Heimlich
Institute's better days appear to be in the past.
its 2011 federal tax filing, the Institute had
total assets of $1000.
Along the way, we ended up uncovering some other
jaw-dropping scams and scammers.
example there was my father's 30-year protege,
the late Dr. Edward A. Patrick, who, per his
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
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.
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 that revealed a variety of
malfeasance by SALF and its founder/president,
Carol J. Spizzirri. The thumbnail shows her with
Mike "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown at a 2003
ceremony in Washington at which SALF became a FEMA
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
reportedly now lives in a mobile home park in
San Marcos, California.
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
a January 21, 2013 Cincinnati Enquirer article
(picked up by USA Today), my father claims he
asked "the Red Cross to remove his name from any
of its literature and training procedures on
choking." After the story appeared, I asked the
ARC about that. They were unaware of any such
request from my father.
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 --
bounced into the Associated Press and the
There are still important
unreported and under-reported stories about 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
There's also this biggie:
Who really invented the Heimlich maneuver?
As I reported, my father's
autobiography is scheduled to be published in
February 2014. I hope that event will result in
more information coming to light.
Finally, we hope our unexpected odyssey
encourages other rebels, whistleblowers, citizen
journalists, and those who confronted with
misconduct and abuse by family members.
Questions? Just ask.
J. Heimlich MD; Jane Heimlich; Elisabeth Heimlich;
the Heimlichs and prescription drug abuse; Phil
Heimlich; Jon Goodwin; Drs.
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
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.
"The Heimlich Manoeuvre" (audio & transcript)
min. audio documentary by Aviva Ziegler
Broadcasting Corporation, July 27, 2009
here for Dr. Joe's
interview with Peter
June 1, 2011 Writer's Almanac,
Garrison Keillor's popular poetry reading
feature on public radio:
Report on the
Advanced Study Weekend with Dr.
McDougall Newsletter, February
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
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