Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Outside magazine deep-sixes the Heimlich maneuver for drowning rescue; why do these organizations continue to put the public at risk by recommending my father's dangerous, thoroughly-discredited claims?

"America's leading active-lifestyle and adventure-travel magazine" just drowned the idea that the Heimlich maneuver should be used to revive drowning victims.

Photo from Outside magazine

From Drowning: The Heimlich maneuver won't save you, published yesterday on Outside magazine's website:
The Heimlich has been used for decades to clear the airways of choking victims. For that purpose, it has proved to be a lifesaver. However, the medical community is now advising against its use in drowning cases - despite the claims of Henry Heimlich, it has never been established that the technique can remove water from the lungs. Instead, it may cause a victim to regurgitate and then inhale his or her vomit.
Despite the overwhelming consensus of every major first aid organization and resuscitation expert, these three companies continue to recommend performing the Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) on drowning victims.

THE HEIMLICH INSTITUTE. For decades, this Cincinnati nonprofit has been hyping the Heimlich for drowning rescue, the Heimlich to stop asthma attacks, the Heimlich to cure cystic fibrosis, and "curing" AIDS, cancer, and Lyme Disease by infecting patients with malaria.

Heimlich Institute board members from the organization's 2010 IRS 990

THE NATIONAL AQUATIC SAFETY COMPANY. This Houston-area lifeguard training company, which claims to have over 73 clients as of 2008, proudly takes credit for introducing "the abdominal maneuver into aquatic rescue" in 1993.

NASCO instructor Brian Cole teaches lifeguards to perform the Heimlich

The rationale? From An Open Letter To Our Clients, The Public and The Press on NASCO's website:
The reasons that abdominal thrusts are embedded in our rescue protocol can be simply stated as:
  • It works and works well.
  • It does no additional harm to the victim.
  • It delays the initiation of on deck CPR only a very small amount of time, and
  • It initiates a respiration step early in the rescue sequence.
Meanwhile, from last year's Washington Post article by reporter Tom Jackman about NASCO's use of the Heimlich on drowning victims:
In Tampa, which has one of the highest drowning rates in the country, Dr. James Orlowski said he has documented nearly 40 cases where rescuers performing the Heimlich maneuver have caused complications for the victim. Orlowski is chief of pediatrics and pediatric intensive care at University Community Hospital in Tampa.

“You’ve got one man and a few small supporters,” Orlowski said, ”that continue to push this in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

THE PHYSICIANS COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE MEDICINE. This DC-area nonprofit produced a PSA and issued a press release hyping the Heimlich for drowning. My father's a longtime member of the advisory board of the organization, which every couple of years presents the Henry J. Heimlich Award for Innovative Medicine.

In this 2004 letter to the editor, Neal Barnard MD, a nonpracticing psychiatrist who's the group's founder/president, shares his understanding of the physiology of drowning:
Dr. Heimlich is right to point out the value of using the Heimlich maneuver to clear water from the lungs in near-drowning cases. Rather than waste minute after agonizing minute in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when the lungs are filled with water, the maneuver clears the water out.
Here's an interview Dr. Barnard gave to Brian Ross for the ABC 20/20 report about my father's crackpot medical claims:

Added May 2, 2012

C.H.A.S.E. FOR LIFE. In this June 9, 2007 WCBS-TV interview, Farley Boyle, former runway model turned founder/president of a Little Silver, NJ first aid training nonprofit, advises that "it's crucial that you get the water out" of near-drowning victims and that rescuers should "try to expel the water using abdominal thrusts":