Thursday, June 21, 2012

Florida college paper: Cincinnati's Heimlich Institute has dumped my father's dangerous drowning claims

"O" is for Oracle. And Orlowski.

From USF professor fights Heimlich maneuver’s use in drowning by Margarita Abramova, just published by the University of South Florida Oracle:
The Heimlich Institute has stopped advocating on their website for the Heimlich maneuver to be used as a first aid measure for drowning victims.

...Patrick Ward, executive director of Deaconess Associations, the parent company of the Heimlich Institute, said the Institute doesn’t take a position on the Heimlich maneuver for drowning. The Institute’s main function, he said, is teaching the Heimlich maneuver for choking.

“We’ve cleaned out a lot of stuff on that site because all we’re going to do is focus on the (education initiatives),” he said. “We’re not talking about anything else.”

But Peter Heimlich, whose website has long been dedicated to disproving his father’s theory in relation to drowning and called his father’s work on the subject “dangerous quackery,” said the removal of the information had more significance. It happened shortly after he sent an email to Ward and the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

“I expressed my concern that the Institute was putting the public at risk by promoting my father’s crackpot medical claims,” he said. “The next day I visited the website and discovered that dozens of pages had been scrubbed. Virtually every mention of drowning...had disappeared.”
...(Peter) Heimlich and (USF professor James P.) Orlowski consider the institute’s dismissal of the Heimlich maneuver for drowning as an important step in making it completely obsolete.

“They finally stopped pushing it,” Orlowski said. “For years, Heimlich used his institute to push his maneuver, especially to lifeguards and lifesavers, despite the scientific evidence.“

...Orlowski said the original premise of using the Heimlich maneuver as a first aid technique for drowning victims is that it would get water out of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system.

But, he said, water doesn’t get into or block the airway of a drowning victim.

“The entire explanation that he gave was scientifically unsound and illogical,” he said. “Water’s quickly absorbed from the airway into the bloodstream,” he said. “You don’t have water obstructing the airway at all.”

James P. Orlowski MD (source)

Today's story caps a September 30, 2007 Oracle report, Doctors choke on other use for Heimlich maneuver by reporter Natalie Gagliordi:
Dr. James Orlowski, chief of pediatrics at University Community Hospital (UCH), has been one of Heimlich's most prominent critics since he began to promote the Heimlich maneuver as a first response for drowning victims. 

Orlowski first noticed Heimlich's actions 19 years ago as a resident at the Cleveland Clinic.
"I started doing drowning research in high school, when I wrote my first abstract paper on the subject," Orlowski said. "I had always respected Dr. Heimlich for his work on choking, but his explanations for drowning defied scientific knowledge."

In 1987 Orlowski published an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) documenting the case of a young drowning victim. The boy was submerged under water for one to two minutes and then given the Heimlich maneuver as a first response rather than CPR.

"This should have been a routine resuscitation," Orlowski said. "But instead the boy aspirated on his own vomit, fell into a coma and died seven years later."

Orlowski said he collected more than 30 cases that showed the Heimlich maneuver to be a hindrance to drowning rescue. 

Much of the controversy that has evolved out of Heimlich's claims has thickened since 2002, when his son, Peter Heimlich, said he began to unearth years of medical fraud.
For the recent article, I provided the following quotes that didn't make it into print. I don't know when or if a reporter will provide me with another opportunity to say this, so I'm posting 'em here:
Many medical professionals were intimidated by my father: he was famous, he had access to the media, and he regularly tried to ruin people's careers simply because they disagreed with his theories. So it was easier to just stay out of his way.
In contrast, Dr. Orlowski was courageous and principled. He knew my father didn't even understand the physiology of drowning and, from the beginning, he challenged my father's junk science in the medical journals and in the media.

Since 1974, my father relentlessly hyped the Heimlich for drowning based on evidence ranging from flimsy to fraudulent. Now the Heimlich Institute has finally waved the white flag. There's no question that Dr. Orlowski deserves much of the credit for that victory.