Friday, March 27, 2015

Thousands of Texas students to be trained by controversial first aid program -- I've asked the state health department to jump in

(From my letter today to the Texas Department of Public Health Services, posted below -- click here to download a copy.)

This is to request your help regarding a first aid program that's scheduled to be presented next month to thousands of Texas students.

1) Via Heimlich maneuver on unconscious persons causes controversy by Nick Kammerer, Rambler Newspapers (Irvine), November 24, 2014:
Heimlich Heroes, a Cincinnati-based first aid program developed partly by Henry Heimlich, is teaching students to perform the Heimlich maneuver on unconscious choking victims. This means that school children are being taught a medical practice that is not recommended by the American Heart Association or Red Cross, two highly credible public health organizations.
2) Eric Perez MD is an emergency medicine specialist at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York City who reviews medical treatments published by the National Library of Medicine (under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health). Per a February 3, 2015 item I reported on my blog, Dr. Perez recently wrote me, “To my knowledge, there is no definitive evidence for or against performing abdominal thrusts (on) unconscious patient(s).”

Further, to my knowledge the Heimlich Heroes program has never been reviewed or approved by any licensed physicians.

Therefore, it appears the program is using students to circulate an unapproved, experimental medical treatment.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Before Lyin' Brian Williams was outed, I tagged Apparently Lyin' Luke Bryan for dubious choking rescue claim published by People Country magazine [UPDATE: Jim Romenesko picks up my item]

2/10/15 UPDATE: Media watchdog Jim Romenesko picked up my "Lyin' Bryan?" item.


Via the October 2012 issue of People Country magazine:

Here are my items to date about my unsuccessful attempts to verify Bryan's claim:

September 23, 2012: Who's the "mystery friend" that rescued Nashville singing star Luke Bryan from choking? His people won't tell me and the editor of People Country -- the magazine that broke the story -- isn't interested

November 8, 2012: Was country music star Luke Bryan lyin' about being rescued from choking? Not even his mother will back up the story

January 29, 2013: Nashville singer Luke Bryan's managers refuse to back up his "Heimlich choking rescue" story -- and an invitation to reporters to slice this baloney

August 29, 2013: Was Billboard #1 singer Luke Bryan lyin' about being saved in a dramatic choking rescue? He won't answer me, so any reporters or fans want to ask him? Here's his tour schedule and contact info

Obviously I don't have the swat to get an answer from Team Bryan, so along the way I've sent the information to reporters in Nashville and elsewhere. To my knowledge, no one has followed-up.

What happens next?

A. Nothing.

B. A journalist asks Team Bryan for the who/what/where/when, perhaps contacts me for a reaction comment, and reports the results.

C. Someone writes him a "Dear Luke" fan letter asking him the following questions, forwards the correspondence to me, and I blog the results:
- What was the date of the choking incident?
- What's the name and location of the pizza restaurant?
- What's the name of your friend who performed the Heimlich maneuver?
- Based on your description ("I went down"), did you lose consciousness?
- Did you subsequently seek medical care? If so, what's the name of the doctor who examined you?
Re: options B and C, here are the offices of Red Light Management, based in Charlottesville, VA, the entertainment company that handles Bryan.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cincinnati's Heimlich Heroes program falls for Onion-style "news story" that Bill Murray saved a choking victim in Phoenix using "the Heimlich" [UPDATE: How pathetic is this?]

Yesterday I blogged about the recklessness and incompetence of a Cincinnati first aid organization called Heimlich Heroes that's mistraining thousands of kids around the country.

Posted a couple days ago on the group's Facebook page:

Only one problem.

The story's a spoof that originated two years ago from an Onion-style "news" outlet:


2/10/15 UPDATE: How pathetic is this? 

Days after I blogged the above item, here's a screenshot of the same Facebook post, but with some added words:

Hey there, Heimlich Heroes! 

Even though you're an incompetent operation that's mistraining students around the country, I'm glad you're following my blog -- I can use all the readers I can get. 

But when you get snookered, why not just laugh it off instead of trying to lie your way out of it?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Is Cincinnati's Heimlich Heroes training program using thousands of kids around the country to circulate an experimental medical treatment? Plus the National Institutes of Health tags the group for misrepresentation

Via Heimlich family maneuvers by Peter Korn, Portland Tribune,


I've been unable to locate any published research studies supporting that treatment recommendation. (If you know of any, please send me citations.)  

Via the website of the affiliated Heimlich Heroes first aid training program:

Click here for a page on the organization's website listing dozens of cities and towns where kids have been or will be trained. The list doesn't identify who conducted the training or at what facility or school.

Via this clip from training videos posted on their website, Heimlich Heroes is teaching kids around the country to "Heimlich" unconscious choking victims:

According to her LinkedIn bio, Heimlich Heroes program director Terri Huntington has no medical training and her last job was working for a multi-level marketing company called The Pampered Chef.

When I asked her for any evidence supporting the use of "the Heimlich" to revive unconscious choking victims, she instructed me to go away.

Eric Perez MD is an emergency medicine specialist at Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York City who reviews medical treatments posted on the website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health):
To my knowledge, there is no definitive evidence for or against performing abdominal thrusts in unconscious patient.
Via Heimlich maneuver on unconscious persons causes controversy by Nick Kammerer, Rambler Newspapers, Irvine, TX, November 24, 2014:
Certain entities, such as the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, do not recommend using the Heimlich maneuver on unconscious patients......Heimlich Heroes, a Cincinnati-based first aid program developed partly by Henry Heimlich, is teaching students to perform the Heimlich maneuver on unconscious choking victims. This means that school children are being taught a medical practice that is not recommended by the American Heart Association or Red Cross, two highly credible public health organizations.
Based on the above, unless I'm missing something, Heimlich Heroes appears to be using young people around the country to circulate an experimental, unapproved medical treatment.

The program was also recently tagged by the National Institutes of Health for circulating false information.

Here's a claim that, until recently, was posted on the Heimlich Heroes website's FAQ page:

Via a recent FOIA request I filed with the NIH:

The Heimlich Heroes FAQ web page has since changed the claim to:

I'll fact-check that claim with those three organizations and report the results.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Fanatical animal rights group" partners with the city of Little Rock, Arkansas Department of Health, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to promote veganism -- and I need an Arkansan to help me with FOIA requests!

PCRM founder/president Neal Barnard MD, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, Christie Beck MD and her husband Jason Beck MD (source)

Via A Tiff with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a September 21, 2011 blog item by chemist and junk science debunker Joe "Dr. Joe" Schwarcz PhD, Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society:
I consider PCRM to be a fanatical animal rights group with a clear cut agenda of promoting a vegan lifestyle and eliminating all animal experimentation.
Via Project promotes 21-day vegan diet by Bobby Ampezzan in yesterday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
This is the first in a series of articles about Kickstart Your Health Little Rock, a campaign to encourage residents to adopt a plant-based diet. Developed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the program is endorsed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Arkansas Department of Health, Baptist Health Medical Center and the city of Little Rock.
Here's more from the article (which is behind a subscription paywall):
(Dr. Neal) Barnard, founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, flew in to help (Chrissie Beck MD and her husband Jason Beck MD) and others, including the mayor’s office, generate some momentum for a campaign to encourage city residents to take a stab at veganism....

...(Dr. Chrissie Beck:) “I think it [meat eating] is going to be more like tobacco. Where we look back and go, ‘Remember when we thought maybe tobacco was bad, but all the companies were telling us it was OK...?...I hope we can look back and say, ‘I can’t believe we ever questioned whether or not it was safe to give kids hot dogs in schools.'”
For some photos of the kind of meal plan that Mayor Stodola and the rest have in mind for Arkansans, don't miss How George Washington University’s Dr. Neal Barnard Eats for a Day by Melissa Romero, The Washingtonian, March 25, 2014. 

For example, here's what the gaunt Dr. Barnard calls his "favorite meal," a bean burrito with leafy green salad:

For my page about PCRM's 30-year relationship with my father; how the organizations turns a blind eye to the Heimlich Institute's notorious experiments in which patients suffering from cancer, Lyme disease, and AIDS were infected with malaria; and the reckless recommendation by Dr. Barnard -- whose background is in psychiatry -- that the Heimlich maneuver should be used to resuscitate drowning victims, click here.

Calling all Sidebar readers! I need some help so I can report more about this.

I've filed public records requests with the city of Little Rock, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the Arkansas Department of Health, but under Arkansas's FOIA law, agencies are only required to respond to state residents, and at least one two of my requests has have already been rejected.

If there are any readers with Arkansas addresses who are willing to file requests, please e-mail me.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Are PBS's Editorial Standards voluntary or compulsory? The answer may hinge on Halle Berry's "Heimlich denial"


In a June 16 story published on the PBS NewsHour's website, Howard Markel MD, a prominent professor of medical history at the University of Michigan, claimed Hollywood star Halle Berry was saved from choking by the Heimlich maneuver.

But in an August 14 Hollywood Reporter article, Ms. Berry denied the claim.


So on August 20, I e-mailed a corrections request to the NewsHour's managing editor, Judy Woodruff.

My request also asked Ms. Woodruff to address other factual errors in Dr. Markel's story and to review the reporting and editing of his article. (Details via see my August 21 item, What do a prominent medical historian/author, the PBS ombudsman, and actress Halle Berry have in common? My NewsHour corrections request saga!)

Despite multiple courtesy follow-up e-mails (to which I received confirmations of receipt from Ms. Woodruff) and a couple of voice messages I left for her assistant, I've never received a reply to my inquiry.


Via PBS's published Editorial Standards and Policies, here's where this gets interesting:
The honesty and integrity of informational content depends heavily upon its factual accuracy. Every effort must be made to assure that content is presented accurately and in context. Programs, Digital Content,and other content containing editorials, analysis, commentary, and points of view must be held to the same standards of factual accuracy as news reports. A commitment to accuracy and transparency requires the correction of inaccuracies and errors in a public and visible manner. These principles also require that PBS, Stations and Producers actively respond to feedback and questions from audiences.
Nice words, but are they voluntary or compulsory?


Last week I e-mailed that question to PBS's media relations department and got this response from Jan McNamara, Sr. Director and Sr. Strategist of Corporate Communications at the network:
Can you provide some context for your question?
I'm not sure why context matters, but I appreciated her reply, so I sent Ms. McNamara the detailed e-mail embedded below. (Click here to download a copy.)

Here's what I asked.
Are PBS's Editorial Standards and Policies voluntary or compulsory for PBS employees?

If they're compulsory, what's the name and job title of the employee responsible for enforcing them?

If they're voluntary, this is to request that PBS publish that information in the guidelines and on the network's website.
As I wrote to Ms. McNamara, I take this matter seriously, so I copied PBS Board chairman Donald A. Baer, PBS President/CEO Paula A. Kerger, and, because PBS receives tax dollars -- about $25 million according to the organization's most recent IRS return -- my congressman, Rob Woodall (GA-7th District).


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In popular iTunes "comedy" podcast, Huntington, WV physician/professor & her husband mock the members of my family -- including my late mother -- portraying us as "crazy weirdos"


In a half-hour Thanksgiving holiday podcast ostensibly about my father's history of medical misconduct, Sydnee McElroy MD and her husband Justin McElroy of Huntington, WV, spent half the program making fun of the members of my family, alluding to us as "crazy" and "weirdos."

Dr. McElroy said she did so to assure listeners -- who reportedly number in the tens of thousands -- that no matter how screwed up their families are, my family's got it worse.

A board-certified physician on faculty at Marshall University who specializes in family medicine, Dr. McElroy admitted during the program that she'd searched for "anything weird" about each of us, presumably with the intention of denigrating us.
Further, in response to my questions about factual errors and other problematic information she reported, Dr. McElroy refused to back up her work and indicated that she was under no obligation to provide accurate information to listeners.

Justin McElroy, Sydnee McElroy MD (source)

According to Local couple's online audio show gets tens of thousands of listeners by Dave Lavender, Huntington (West Virginia) Herald-Dispatch, January 20, 2014:
The weekly humor podcast fea­tures (Justin McElroy and his wife, Sydnee McElroy), a Hunting­ton-based family doctor, dissect­ing medical history uncovering all the odd, weird, wrong, dumb and just gross ways doctors have tried to fix people.
Recorded every Thursday here in Huntington and heard weekly around the world on iTunes and Maximum Fun, the quirky medi­cal-based podcast — which has poked fun at everything from bizarre hangover cures to blood­letting — is chalking up between 35,000 and 40,000 downloads per episode.

On November 25, they aired a 30-minute podcast called The Heimlich maneuver.

The first part of the program was about my father's problematic career and unfounded medical claims -- unquestionably fair game for a program about quack medicine.

But halfway through the program, the McElroys changed course and systematically went after the members of my family, including my late mother.

Dr. McElroy went through a laundry list of our names, sticking pins in each of us based on what she considers to be our failings, while her husband interjected wisecracks.

Per this clip, Dr. McElroy admits it was her idea and explains her purpose for doing so. 

Sydnee McElroy MD: I'm gonna talk about (Dr. Heimlich) himself first and some of the stuff he's done, but then, I just, I..I got into this topic and I'm gonna have to tell you about (Dr. Heimlich's) family as well because...well, it's just great. And I think this is another good Thanksgiving topic. You know, everybody's crazy families are coming in, you're going to spend a lot of time with all the weirdos you're related to? Well, you got nothing on the Heimlichs.

The segment about my family goes on for some time -- too long to upload under Fair Use laws, so I've posted short clips.

First, Dr. McElroy goes after my mother, the late Jane Heimlich, because she wrote books about so-called alternative medicine.

After years of serious prolonged illnesses, mom died a couple years ago -- well before her time, in my opinion,

Throughout her life, she endured harsh emotional and other abuse, first at the hands of her sadistic father, dance studio mogul Arthur Murray, then during five decades of marriage to my father.

In her 2010 memoir Out of Step, she left out most of the horrors, but to her credit, mom found the strength to share some of the humiliation and betrayal that my father put her (and the rest of us) through.

Next, the McElroys aimed their peashooters at yours truly. I'll get to that in a second.

They then started in on my younger sister Janet Heimlich, who authored a book about child abuse and who heads a nonprofit "that seeks to protect children from abuse and neglect enabled by religious, spiritual, and cultural ideologies."

The McElroys think Janet deserves to be their piƱata because she advocates against circumcision.

Next they aim their sights at my older brother Phil Heimlich.

Why do they think Phil's a "weirdo" who's worthy of their derision?

Because he chose to become a Christian.

At the end of the clip, Dr. McElroy says she "couldn't find anything weird" about my other sister, Elisabeth Heimlich.

In other words -- and this deserves the bold red highlighter -- Dr. McElroy admitted that she went out of her way to search for what she considered to be negative, denigrating information about each of us.

Incidentally, Elisabeth is a talented photographer who took the beautiful portrait of my wife Karen Shulman that's attached to the audio snips.

Okay, here's my turn in the barrel.

In her efforts to "find anything weird" about me, either Dr. McElroy's a lousy researcher or I've led an unblemished life (ha, ha).

The best she could do was to claim that my website is unreliable and written in a "stream of consciousness" style.

What Dr. McElroy doesn't say is she almost certainly used information from my "unreliable" website.

Briefly, my site, Outmaneuvered: How we busted the Heimlich medical frauds, summarizes how Karen and I unexpectedly uncovered the remarkable unseen history that became the basis for scores of media reports that exposed my father as a dangerous charlatan whose unfounded medical recommendations put the public at risk  and who scammed big bucks from naive donors including Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Bette Midler, and Muhammad Ali.

About halfway down my home page, I included a few paragraphs describing how Phil and Janet had unsuccessfully tried to undermine Karen and me.

Like it or not -- and I didn't -- that's a legitimate part of our story.

From those paragraphs, Dr. McElroy apparently cherry-picked facts she considered to be negative -- Janet's critiques of circumcision and Phil's religious beliefs -- took them out of context and used them in her attempts to belittle my sis and bro.

No, I'm not pleased that Dr. McElroy apparently used information from my site as rocks in her slingshot.

If so, her choice to do so speaks for itself.


Digging a deeper hole, Huntington's fun couple also claim that I'm a conspiracy nut.

That raises an interesting question I can answer.

For reasons that remain unclear, in their stompfest on my peeps, the McElroys chose not to mention Karen.

Since Dr. McElroy says she was all over my website, she knew that Karen has been my equal partner in researching my father's unusual career.

Here's my point.

Since they disappeared Karen, it's unclear if the McElroys also think she's a conspiracy nut.

I've had the very good fortune to have been married to her since 1988, so I can assure them that Karen doesn't believe in conspiracies.

Like me, she thinks much of the misery in the world is caused by types who get their kicks stepping on other people.

Along those lines, in the same clip Dr. McElroy chuckles as her husband assures their listeners, "So no matter how awkward your Thanksgiving is, keep in mind that someone out there is having a more awkward Thanksgiving."


My family's Thanksgivings aren't awkward.

They're nonexistent.

Again, since she spent so much time on my website, Dr. McElroy must have gleaned from the first few paragraphs on my home page that my family was shattered long before Karen and I started looking into my father's troubling career:
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 Tom Francis's November 2005 Radar Magazine article (the most thorough article to date about my father's troubling career and our efforts to bring the facts to public attention), 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.
Since Spring 2003, much of the information we uncovered has been reported by mainstream print and broadcast news outlets in the U.S. and abroad, but there's plenty more I hope to get reported.

For example, what was the nature of my father's relationships with at least three doctors who lost their licenses for extreme over-prescribing of narcotics, two of whom did prison time?


Since the McElroys put my work under their microscope, turnabout is fair play. 

First, I think their concept of a comic-edged, educational program about quackery is terrific. 

And Sawbones is a very clever title.

Comedy's in the ear of the beholder, so I'll let others decide if the McElroys deliver the goods in that department.

But, based on my experience, the educational part is a fail.


Among other reasons, Dr. McElroy wrote me that she doesn't care if the information she provides to listeners is accurate.

For example, here's what she says about the scientific research behind the Heimlich maneuver and other choking rescue treatments: 
Sydnee McElory MD: I've read all about this now to try to figure out what is their evidence for which is the best (treatment response for a choking emergency). Obviously, again there's no studies on (back blows or the Heimlich maneuver), like no controlled studies 'cause you can't. You can't force people to choke and then try to save them. So it's all based on our experiences with these things and then theoretically.
Dr. McElroy claims to have "read all about it," but apparently she didn't even search for any articles in medical journals via PubMed.

If she had, she would have located published studies about choking by my father, Charles Guildner MD, Archer Gordon MD, and others who used both human beings and animals as research models.

Dr. McElroy apparently never even looked at my father's entry on Wikipedia.

If she had, she would have been aware of Dr. Guildner's study and a widely-cited 2000 choking study by Audun Langhelle which used cadavers as research subjects.

I'm no expert but my understanding is that studies using cadavers has been going on for centuries.

Based on Dr. McElory's comments, that apparently never even occurred to her.

In an attempt to learn more, in a December 2nd e-mail I asked if she'd searched PubMed.

In the same e-mail, I asked about this allegation she leveled against me:
At time stamp 25:20 (of the program), you said: (Peter Heimlich) thinks that there's, like, a big conspiracy behind all this, that there was a lot of money changing hands and powerful people and probably stuff that wasn't...I don't know.

Would you please direct me to the information on which you based your assertion that I think there's "a big conspiracy behind all this." Also would you please clarify what you meant by "all this"?
I didn't hear from her for a week, but after I e-mailed a few courteous nudges -- page down for the complete correspondence -- she finally responded:
Mr. Heimlich,

I'm sorry, but I just simply don't have the time to provide you with all the information you requested. I work full time and I cannot research a show more than once. Our show is a comedy podcast meant to provide entertainment.
In other words, she refused to back up her own statements -- about misreporting medical facts and her criticisms of my work -- and she doesn't care whether or not the medical and historical information she shares with listeners is accurate.

Given the effort she puts into her podcast, a more accurate title might be Lazybones.

I'll wrap this up by confirming that the McElroys got at least one thing right.

When it comes to a Norman Rockwell "Happy Thanksgiving" stereotype, we Heimlichs don't fit the bill.

Like many if not most families, we've had our share of serious challenges, conflict, and pain.

But as the saying goes, you can't choose your family.

However, you can choose your doctor. 

Are you looking for a family physician who, because she finds fault with our opinions, work, and religious beliefs, suggests that the members of my family are "crazy"?  (And coming from a licensed, board-certified physician, does that qualify as a diagnosis?)

Are you looking for a doctor so indiscreet that she'd share such opinions with tens of thousands of strangers in a podcast?

Are you looking for a doctor clueless enough to attempt to publicly humiliate my family and not perceive that in response she might get a dose of her own medicine?

If so, look no further.