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" [UPDATE: The podcast has been scrubbed]

UPDATE (8/13/18): Recently I received a tip from a reader that the November 25, 2014 Sawbones segment about my father and my family had disappeared from the internet.

Here's the original URL:

Here's a screenshot of the current page:

Not long ago I sent courteous e-mails to co-hosts Sydnee McElroy MD and her husband Justin McElroy asking what happened, but I never received any reply.

My original item is below the hash marks.



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 piñata 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.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Faith-based journalism, Part I: In a high-profile science magazine, a widely-published Brooklyn writer claimed he was rescued in dramatic choking incident -- but he and his editors refuse to provide any supporting facts

Noah Davis (source)
Via The Masterful Marketing of the Heimlich Maneuver by Brooklyn writer Noah Davis, published November 14, 2014 on the website of a popular science magazine called Pacific Standard, published out of Santa Barbara's Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy:
Awhile back, I choked on a piece of beef stew. It happened as these things usually do: One minute I was happily sitting in a Dominican restaurant down the block having a “business lunch” with a friend, and the next I couldn’t breathe. This was not ideal. I calmly got up, found a glass of water, and chugged half of it, but that didn’t solve the problem. My friend, now concerned, asked if I was choking. I nodded. He gave me a look that was equal parts “uh oh” and “this is going to be so embarrassing,” then proceeded to give me what he thought was the Heimlich maneuver while the rest of the restaurant’s patrons looked on in confusion. After five or six chest compressions, the hunk dislodged, and I rejoined the land of the breathing.
Here's the problem.

I asked Davis to provide me with basic facts about the incident: the date, the name of his friend, and the name of the restaurant.

He refused.

To paraphrase Jake Gittes, the private eye played by Jack Nicholson in the film Chinatown, Davis's response runs contrary to my experience -- and perhaps to common sense.

Based on my decade of research into my father's career and "the Heimlich," when people are involved in choking rescues, they can't wait to share the details.

For example, in media reports that turn up almost daily, when someone steps in to help a choking victim, not surprisingly, they're showered with gratitude and praise for possibly having helped save someone's life.

And I don't know about you, but if I thought my life may have been saved by a friend or a stranger, I'd shout their name from the rooftops.

Maria Streshinsky (source)


So I brought my questions to Davis's editor, Nicholas Jackson.

I received this reply from Pacific Standard's Editor-In-Chief Maria Streshinsky:
Mr. Heimlich, again thanks for your continued attention to the story. But I don't want Nick or Noah releasing that information to you. The friend was unnamed and so was the restaurant. And we are going to leave it that way. Thank you again. But let's call this matter complete now.
I then asked if she or Jackson had verified any of the facts with Mr. Davis.

Her non-response?
We have very clear fact checking processes for our print and web authors. Again, I appreciate your interest but we have piles of work we have to get to. We won't be answering any other emails.
Are reporters and editors obliged to provide substantiating facts to readers?

Of course not.

But based on my experience, good journalists do so for at least two reasons.

First, they take pride in their work and therefore are quick to back up their reporting. 

Second, and more importantly, when journalists refuse to provide reasonable information to readers, it can create the appearance that they may have fabricated information.

For example, did Davis make up his own choking rescue to add some zip to an article he was writing about my father?

I don't know because he and his editors refuse to provide any substantiating facts.

By failing to do so, they created doubt about the event.

To quote Evelyn Mulwray, Chinatown's star-crossed heiress played by Faye Dunaway, "Understand? Or is it too tough for you?"

If that slope's not slippery enough, Streshinsky's non-response even managed to put the credibility of her publication up for grabs. 

That is, by refusing to provide basic facts about the claimed incident -- not even the date or the name of the restaurant? -- she made it clear that she expects Pacific Standard readers to accept the veracity of information published in her magazine not on evidence, but on faith.

This from a purported science magazine?


It gets worse.

The current online version of Davis's Pacific Standard article isn't the original.

Shortly after it was published, I caught a handful of factual errors and brought them to Jackson's attention.

À la Winston Smith, he quickly rewrote the article, disappeared the errors, and failed to inform readers.

Details in Part II.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"The Heimlich" has never been recommended in Australia "because it can be dangerous." But the American Heart Association recommends it as the best treatment. Who's got it right?

Via The Right Way to Stop Choking by Daniela Ongaro, The Daily Telegraph (Australia), October 29, 2014:

Although popularised by Hollywood, the manoeuvre (invented by American physician, Dr Henry Heimlich in the 1970s and introduced in the US) has never been accepted practice in Australia.

The Australian Resuscitation Council in its June 2014 guidelines states: “Life-threatening complications associated with use of abdominal thrusts have been reported in 32 case reports.

“Therefore, the use of abdominal thrusts in the management of Foreign Body Airway Obstruction is not recommended. Instead back blows and chest thrusts should be used.”

St John’s Ambulance First Aid trainer Nick Allison says Australian resuscitation experts do not recommend the Heimlich, which has attracted significant controversy for the risks it poses and the lack of scientific evidence supporting its use.

“The Heimlich manoeuvre looks dramatic, which is why you see it in all the movies,” Allison says.

“It came out in the US but there were concerns because of the damage being caused (to victims) such as broken ribs and the difficulty involved in using it if the choking person was a larger person.

“It’s not a recommended technique because it can be dangerous.”

Via the Dallas-based American Heart Association's most recent Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science (2010), chair: Robert A. Berg MD, Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (emphasis added):

Although chest thrusts, back slaps, and abdominal thrusts are feasible and effective for relieving severe FBAO in conscious (responsive) adults and children ≥1 year of age, for simplicity in training it is recommended that abdominal thrusts be applied in rapid sequence until the obstruction is relieved.

Simplicity in training?

What about science-based evidence?

Via CPR research: Increasing survival after cardiac arrest, Discovery's Edge (the Mayo Clinic's Online Research Magazine), November 2011:

Roger D. White, M.D., an anesthesiologist who favors button-down shirts and ties, has saved countless lives through groundbreaking work in cardiac resuscitation at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn...(Many) of Dr. White's published findings have been incorporated into the American Heart Association (AHA) resuscitation guidelines....

Via A New Maneuver - the circular history of a lifesaving procedure by Pamela Mills-Senn, Cincinnati Magazine, April 2007:

(In) a 2004 e-mail to Peter Heimlich (who corresponded with White using a pseudonym), White is significantly less blase about Dr. (Henry) Heimlich's role. "There was never any science here," White wrote. "Heimlich overpowered science all along the way with his slick tactics and intimidation, and everyone, including us at the AHA, caved in."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Three ways the "ozone therapy for ebola" story is one degree from my parents -- and questions about Rotary International's involvement in dubious medical experiments conducted on vulnerable human subjects

Last week I blogged an item with this sprawl of a headline:

As it happens, there are at least three "one degree from my parents" connections.

1) Per a May 9, 2002 article the Indian Hill Journal -- a suburban Cincinnati paper -- my father used Rotary to help promote his claims that malaria could cure AIDS.

I don't know if the experiments moved forward in Gambia, but via Tom Francis's landmark November 2005 two-part Radar Magazine report, here's a description of how Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute conducted similar "research" in two other countries in Africa:
Mekbib Wondewossen is an Ethiopian immigrant who makes his living renting out cars in the San Francisco area, but in his spare time he works for Dr. Heimlich, doing everything from "recruiting the patients to working with the doctors here and there and everywhere," Wondewossen says. The two countries he names are Ethiopia and the small equatorial nation of Gabon, on Africa's west coast.

"The Heimlich Institute is part of the work there - the main people, actually, in the research," Wondewossen says. "They're the ones who consult with us on everything. They tell us what to do."

...Wondewossen says that the researchers involved in the study are not doctors. He refuses to name members of the research team, because he says it would get them into trouble with the local authorities. "The government over there is a bad government," he says. "They can make you disappear."

Wondewossen won't reveal the source of funding for this malariotherapy research. "There are private funders," he says. But as to their identity?"I can't tell you that, because that's the deal we make with them, you know?" He scoffs at the question of whether his team got approval to conduct this research from a local ethics review board. Bribery on that scale, he says, is much too expensive: "If you want the government to get involved there, you have to give them a few million - and then they don't care what you do."


For more information about the Heimlich Institute's notorious "malariotherapy" experiments on AIDS patients, check out these recent articles that resulted from research by me and Karen.

How Dr. Heimlich Maneuvered Hollywood Into Backing His Dangerous AIDS "Cure" by Seth Abramovitch, The Hollywood Reporter, August 14, 2014 

2) Here's another Rotary connection.

Via Mystery Study, an August 7, 2013 article published by the newspaper Barbados Today, about a government investigation that was triggered by my inquiries:

Tennyson Springer (source)
The Ministry of Health is officially probing the existence of a controversial asthma study purportedly done in Barbados and involving a famous American physician.
But amid continued external queries about whether the research “followed legal and ethical guidelines”, Acting Permanent Secretary Tennyson Springer said initial investigations had found no evidence of its existence.
...Last month Springer responded on the Ministry of Health’s behalf and told (Peter) Heimlich that there was no knowledge of the study which was said to have involved 67 minors.

“So far, there has been no institutional memory or documentation of this research. However, the Ministry of Health will continue to probe into this alleged project."
Click here to download a 156-page pdf of the documents from the Henry J. Heimlich Archival Collection at the University of Cincinnati that include the protocol and financial records showing that, after being rejected by Cincinnati's Deaconess Hospital, the Barbados study was funded by the Rotary Foundation of Cincinnati (and the Heimlich Institute).

As far as I know the Barbados Ministry of Health's investigation is ongoing.

The "malariotherapy for AIDS" and "Heimlich maneuver for asthma" experiments couldn't be conducted in the United States because they violate U.S. laws protecting the rights of human beings used as research subjects.

Here are some good questions.

How many other human experiments that would be illegal in the United States and other industrialized countries have been or are currently being funded by Rotary?

Does Rotary International have any policy in place to prohibit funding or participation by members in such medical experiments ? If not, why not?

If you've got any related information to share, click here to e-mail me.

3) Finally, back to "ozone therapy," here's an item from The Insiders' Guide to Cincinnati (2007) about my late mother: