Monday, July 25, 2016

The Long Crawl-back, Part II: I helped re-write NY State resolution honoring my father

Via veteran reporter Ben Kaufman's media column in the June 8, 2016 Cincinnati CityBeat, the Queen City's longtime newsweekly:
A recent Cincinnati Enquirer story went global, aided and abetted by the Associated Press. It was perfect click bait. The story said that at 96, Cincinnatian Henry Heimlich used his Maneuver for the first time to save a life (of a purported choking victim, 87-year-old Patty Ris, at the Deupree House senior residence*).
...After Peter Heimlich alerted The Enquirer and others to a similar claim (his father had made) years ago, the paper backed away from the novelty. It assigned a second reporter to redo the story, adding and explaining doubts about the “first” in the longest crawl-back I can remember.

Peter Heimlich told me that in addition to The Enquirer and AP, “these are some of the news outlets I filed corrections requests with last week: CNN, NBC News, The New York Daily News, and WCPO-TV. At this writing, none have corrected the errors.”
This is the second part of a series about my corrections requests regarding the lie my father told reporters. Those reports triggered the N.Y. State resolution -- and the original version included his lie  -- hence this item.

* Reporters at McKnight's and Slate have questioned the veracity of the Deupree House story. So have I.

#####

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Honorific resolutions introduced by elected officials on behalf of prominent individuals or organizations can boomerang.

For example, state legislatures in Pennsylvania (2002) and Illinois (2003) introduced resolutions praising the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF) and its founder/president, Carol Spizzirri, one of my father's gal pals. (As Sidebar readers know, SALF is now under investigation by the IL Attorney General and Spizzirri's sordid history has been the subject of numerous media reports.)

Then there's the resolution introduced to Cincinnati city council in year 2000 by my brother Phil Heimlich that declared the Queen City to be an official "City of Character." (What Phil failed to inform other members of council was that the Character program was a front for now-disgraced evangelist Bill Gothard.)

I do my best to prevent well-intentioned people from stepping in it, so when I happened across this June 16, 2016 New York State resolution with some factual errors and a problematic claim (my yellow-highlighting), I contacted the office of the official who introduced it, Buffalo-area Democratic Assemblyman Robin Schimminger.



A member of the assemblyman's staff promptly welcomed my outreach, informed me that the final version had not yet been filed, and cordially invited me to suggest any corrections.

I accepted the offer and the final version of the resolution, filed on July 1, 2016, incorporated my suggestions which I've blue-highlighted in the copy below.

Re: the first highlighted paragraph, to my knowledge, leading first aid organizations in most countries recommend first performing back blows when responding to a choking emergency; if that fails to remove the obstruction, rescuers should proceed with "the Heimlich" (abdominal thrusts).

Re: the second highlighted paragraph, click here for supporting documents.

In what I consider to be a sensible move, the revised version deleted the problematic claim that my father allegedly rescued a choking victim in 2001 at a Cincinnati's restaurant. (More about that mess via the Cincinnati Enquirer and the New York Times.)



I've done my share of copy editing, but this was a first for me, so I'm grateful to Assemblyman Schimminger and his staff for inviting me to participate.

If any other officials are considering issuing tributes to my father, please feel free to get in touch.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I'm the plaintiff in a New Jersey public records lawsuit challenging the state's residency requirement (UPDATE: 8/17/16 defendant's attorney's response to my complaint)

In response to a recent request for records I filed under New Jersey's Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a government agency (located in Mullica Hill) denied my request because I don't live in the Garden State.

As much as I love The Boss, Southside Johnny, and other great Jersey bands, I don't want to move to Asbury Park in order to access public information, so I took it to court.



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Here's what my attorney, CJ Griffin at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden in Hackensack and a member of the board of trustees at ACLU-NJ, e-mailed me when I asked her to comment:
For more than a decade, agencies have been responding to OPRA requests without ever inquiring whether the requestor was a State resident. Recently, that changed. While two courts have held that you do not need to be a resident to file an OPRA request and the issue is pending before the Appellate Division, the EIRC decided to cite the lone judge who has ruled that New Jersey citizenship is required to file an OPRA request. In doing so, they have essentially shut down access by out-of-state reporters and investigators. The Legislature surely could not have intended that only in-state media has a right to access records under OPRA, given that NJ is situated between two major media markets.

A decision that requires one to be a New Jersey resident in order to file OPRA requests is simply not enforceable and it undermines provisions of OPRA that permit anonymous requests.

While there is a single reference to records being available to ‘citizens of this state’ within OPRA’s opening declaration, repeatedly throughout the statute the Legislature made it clear that ‘any person’ may request records; ‘any person’ may inspect records; ‘any person’ may file a lawsuit for the unlawful denial of access to records. In fact, under OPRA’s predecessor law, those same provisions did say ‘any citizen,’ but in enacting OPRA the Legislature went out of its way to change every single operational provision to make it clear that ‘any person’ may utilize the statute.
UPDATE: Click here for the defendant's attorney's August 17, 2016 response to my complaint.  




H/T to John Paff for steering me to CJ.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

In Wall Street Journal article about anti-choking devices, my father says "any action that delays" his namesake maneuver "can be deadly" -- plus video of my 96-year-old pa conducting the Cornell band

My brother Phil Heimlich with our father (source)

Via Can New Devices Match Heimlich to Stop Choking? LifeVac and Dechoker pose alternative to abdominal thrusts -- LifeVac and Dechoker pose alternative to abdominal thrusts by Laura Johannes, Wall Street Journal,
Two new easy-to-use devices work like plungers to suck out obstructions in the airway, providing another option if standard treatment—such as abdominal thrusts developed in 1974 by Henry Heimlich—fail to clear the airway, say the companies who sell them.

...Both the Dechoker, $89.95, and the LifeVac, $69.95, have a plastic mask that provides a seal over the mouth and nose while suction is provided. The Dechoker looks like a large syringe, while the LifeVac’s plunger is shaped like a small accordion.[Page down for graphics.]

...Skeptics include Dr. Heimlich, now 96. Such a device may not be handy in the “unexpected instance that a person chokes,” Dr. Heimlich, a retired thoracic surgeon from Cincinnati, says in a statement released by his son, Phil Heimlich. “Any action that delays use of the Heimlich maneuver or complicates the rescue can be deadly.”
Any action that delays "the Heimlich"?

Does that include backblows, chest thrusts and finger sweeps?

In any event, in recent months I've enjoyed some friendly correspondence with LifeVac inventor Arthur Lih and Christopher Kellogg, Dechoker's Chief Operating Officer, so I e-mailed them invitations to respond to my father's statement.

Mr. Lih declined. I haven't received a reply from Mr. Kellogg.

By the way, I'm pleased to learn that my father has apparently recovered from an unspecified "medical problem" which, according to my brother, recently prevented him from answering questions from a Cincinnati reporter.

Finally, apropos of nothing except that I've been wanting to blog it, here's a video of my father, accompanied by my sister Janet Heimlich and a walker, conducting the Cornell Big Red Alumni band on June 11, 2016

The performance happened about two weeks after -- according to CNN reporter David Shortell -- my father "sprang into action" in the dining room of a Cincinnati assisted living community to perform his namesake maneuver on an 87-year-old woman sitting next to him.

According to Guardian reporter Joanna Walters' story about the incident, the woman, Patty Gill Ris, claimed she had been choking on a piece of hamburger, but my father claimed it was "a piece of food with some bone in it."






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Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Long Crawl-back, Part I: After being punk'd by my 96-year-old father, Cincinnati ABC-TV affiliate publishes decent update -- "health problems" prevent Dr. Maneuver from answering questions

Via veteran reporter Ben Kaufman's media column in the June 8, 2016 Cincinnati CityBeat, the Queen City's longtime newsweekly:
A recent Cincinnati Enquirer story went global, aided and abetted by the Associated Press. It was perfect click bait. The story said that at 96, Cincinnatian Henry Heimlich used his Maneuver for the first time to save a life (of a purported choking victim, 87-year-old Patty Ris, at the Deupree House senior residence*).
...After Peter Heimlich alerted The Enquirer and others to a similar claim (his father had made) years ago, the paper backed away from the novelty. It assigned a second reporter to redo the story, adding and explaining doubts about the “first” in the longest crawl-back I can remember.

Peter Heimlich told me that in addition to The Enquirer and AP, “these are some of the news outlets I filed corrections requests with last week: CNN, NBC News, The New York Daily News, and WCPO-TV. At this writing, none have corrected the errors.”
This is the first part of a series about my corrections requests.

* Reporters at McKnight's and Slate have questioned the veracity of the Deupree House story. So have I.

#####

Since Spring 2003, my father has been thoroughly exposed as a medical charlatan, a serial liar, and a con man in scores of media reports, two of the first being these Sunday front-pagers in the Cincinnati Enquirer (based on research by my wife Karen and me).

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Here's my point.

Could there be a veteran journalist in the 'Nati who'd take anything my father said at face value and report it?

Reporter Scott Wegener, WCPO-TV News (source)

According to his bio on the website of WCPO-TV (Cincinnati's ABC affiliate), reporter Scott Wegener has been working in the Queen City since 1986 and has won some journalism awards.

On May 27, WCPO aired Wegener's story, Heimlich maneuver inventor uses it for the first time... at age 96, based on this lie told by my father:



That day and again on June 1, I sent e-mails to Wegener about the error.

I received his confirmations of receipt but no reply.

Reporter Joe Rosemeyer, WCPO-TV (source)

On June 27 I took it to WCPO.com News Editor Mike Canan and the next day, Heimlich's first time using maneuver? Maybe not by Joe Rosemeyer, was published on the station's website.

It's tough to prove someone intentionally lied and Rosemeyer's story included some verbal acrobatics perhaps intended to step around that dead elephant in the room:
Maybe Henry Heimlich simply misremembered. Or maybe news reports from the early 2000s simply weren't true.

Either way, there's an irresolvable conflict: When did Dr. Heimlich first perform his namesake maneuver?

A month ago, just a few days before National Heimlich Maneuver Day, the Cincinnati doctor said he'd finally used it for the first time. He's 96 years old, and he invented the move to help choking victims more than 40 years ago.

Pretty incredible that he hadn't used it before then, right?

Except Heimlich apparently told the BBC in 2003 he'd performed it three years earlier, in 2000.

...Several other media outlets also covered that earlier story.

...The doctor's son, Phil Heimlich, said he, his sister and father have no recollection of the incident 16 years ago.
"It would have been a major news story, so we would have remembered," he said.
Presumably the "irresolvable conflict" could be resolved by asking my father, but the story didn't include any quotes from Dr. Maneuver or any indication that he'd been contacted, so I asked Rosemeyer about that.

He replied, "Phil said Henry had some health problems since last month, so he was calling me back instead."

Is this the first time Dr. Heimlich has ever used the maneuver to save a life?

“Yes, this is,” he said Friday. “I originally did my research studies that led to my developing it, which was in 1974, and I never considered that I would be doing it myself.”

The record is murky in that regard. A BBC article in 2003 quoted the doctor, then 83, describing a similar encounter where he tried the maneuver on a fellow diner, a man, although the story lacked details such as a precise date, location and name. A New Yorker article in 2006 made reference to a similar incident, also without details. But a son, Phil Heimlich, said his father had never mentioned any previous incidents to him. The doctor himself did not return a follow-up call.
Finally, if my father's ill, I wish him a speedy recovery.

And when he's better, I'd encourage reporters to interview him to perhaps resolve the "irresolvable conflict."

And if any reporters need someone on the record calling him a liar, I'm available.

This item has been slightly updated.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

VA cops successfully responded to choking victim using back blows/Heimlich combo -- and provided the opportunity to revisit my father's clandestine bankrolling of discredited Yale choking study



Via Police officers come to the rescue of choking man at Subway restaurant
Fairfax police officers came to the rescue of a choking man at a Subway restaurant on Thursday.

...Police said in a statement, "Officer Mulhern utilized his training and administered back blows and Heimlich maneuver. Due to the officers' quick actions, the man's airway was cleared and all were able to finish enjoying their meals."
Via Heimlich maneuver's creator fights Red Cross by Cliff Radel, Cincinnati Enquirer, January 21, 2013:
The American Red Cross' first-aid procedure recommends five back slaps and then five abdominal thrusts for someone who's choking.

...Those recommendations "horrify" (Dr. Henry) Heimlich..."Many scientific studies" have proven "if a person is choking and the food is in the airway, if you hit them on the back, it causes the food to go deeper and tighter into the airway."
Via Red Cross reverses policy on choking aid by Abram Katz, October 23, 2006 (based on my research and tip):
(The) only known study comparing the Heimlich maneuver and back blows was performed by three Yale scientists: Richard L. Day, Edmund S. Crelin and Arthur B. DuBois.
Richard L. Day MD (source)
The paper, published in 1982 in the journal Pediatrics, concluded that the Heimlich is superior. Back blows are not merely ineffective, they can force blockages down the throat and toward the larynx - exactly the wrong direction, the researchers concluded.
"Choking: The Heimlich Abdominal Thrust vs Back Blows: An Approach to Measurement of Inertial and Aerodynamic Forces," by Day, Crelin and DuBois, could well have been the final word.

Except that in acknowledgements at the end of the paper, the authors credit support from the "Dysphagia Foundation Inc. of Cincinnati Inc."
And records from the Ohio Secretary of State's office show that the Dysphagia Foundation was renamed "The Heimlich Institute" Aug. 30, 1982.
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In other words, the Yale experts studying the Heimlich maneuver were apparently assisted by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, developer and tireless promoter of the Heimlich maneuver. He referred to back blows as "death blows."
The connection between Heimlich and the Yale scientists appears to pose at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

...(Dr. Heimlich) did not return phone calls.
Via a June 7, 1982 letter from my father to Dr. Day (embedded below):


I've already reported that my father's financial arrangement with Day was part of a bizarre campaign to eliminate backblows from choking rescue protocols.

"To win," as reporter Tom Francis put it, "the choking rescue crown."

And beginning in 1986 and for the next two decades, my father wore that crown. During those years, U.S. first aid guidelines recommended only his namesake treatment.

But if current first aid guidelines and the Fairfax cops are any indication, despite the efforts of my crooked father and his cronies, science appears to have righted itself.