Thursday, January 30, 2014

PCRM jumps the shark, claims eating carrots will, um, improve your love life

Via a September 21, 2011 column by Joe Schwarcz PhD, Director, McGill University's Office for Science and Society:
(The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) identifies itself as a “Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting preventive medicine, especially better nutrition, and higher standards in research.” I disagree with that description. 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.
Sidebar readers know about my beef (sorry) with vegan-centric PCRM.

Presumably to keep my famous father on their "advisory board," the deep-pockets nonprofit and its founder/president, Neal Barnard MD -- a non-practicing psychiatrist who dresses to impress by donning a white lab coat -- turn a blind eye to the Heimlich Institute's notorious "malariotherapy" experiments and put the public at risk by promoting the use of the Heimlich maneuver for drowning rescue.

For example, this clip from Brian Ross's ABC 20/20 report about my father's dangerous claims and my efforts to bring the information to public attention:

And when my father needs a gushing squib for his forthcoming memoir?

I can only pray that he's right and that no one else has ever lived a life remotely like my father's "journey," including his relationships with narco doctors who lost their licenses and went to prison.

Since my father turns 94 this week, is living in a retirement home, and hasn't held a medical license since 2002, it's unclear what his duties consist of as an advisory board member for PCRM.

I only hope he didn't participate in their latest campaign.

Hat tip to L.V. Anderson at Slate!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Re: my father's forthcoming memoir, I scored two more published corrections -- from the Cincinnati Business Courier and, yes, my father's website

As I reported last week, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews published corrections to their reviews of my father's forthcoming autobiography being published in a few weeks by Prometheus Books, Heimlich's Maneuvers.

The updated reviews rightly credited the eminent Romanian surgeon, the late Dr. Dan Gavriliu, with inventing a surgical procedure that for decades my father falsely (and shamelessly) claimed to have invented.

Since then I've gotten two more published corrections -- and the book hasn't even been published yet!

Barrett Brunsman (source)
My first score was in Heimlich’s Maneuvers: Autobiography of Cincinnati doctor acknowledges controversy, a January 21st Cincinnati Business Courier feature by staff reporter Barrett Brunsman.

Before getting to that, let me give big ups to Brunsman for his recent article about Queen City attorney Christopher Finney's departure from his own law firm.

"(An) arch-conservative legal activist who has a history of working on anti-gay rights causes," Finney has been my father's attorney for at least a decade.

Per a must-read 2006 Cincinnati CityBeat story by Kevin Osborne about a fanny-slapping freak-out that made Finney the literal butt of ensuing jokes, he also co-owned a real estate business with my brother Phil called Three Centurions:
The company apparently is named after a term coined by millionaire evangelist Bill Gothard, whom (Phil) Heimlich admires.
Back to Brunsman's story about my father's long-delayed memoir, here's a screenshot from the original article:

But per this lengthy correction I obtained from the Voice of America re: reporter Adam Phillips's error-ridden 2009 story, Dr. Henry Heimlich, Medical Innovator:

After I sent him the VOA correction, Brunsman promptly e-mailed me a thank-you and informed me he'd changed "credited with saving the lives of thousands of wounded American soldiers" to:

I replied:
I'd suggest that "hundreds of" is more accurate and informative to readers. Your opinion?
No answer. No further update.

Hundreds of lives, thousands of lives? Like whatever, dude.

Psst, Barrett, if you're reading this, you probably did the right thing by not contradicting my father's claim.

Last year, after the Biz Courier published a story by staff reporter James Ritchie that included critical information about my father, the article was disappeared and editor Rob Daumeyer refused to discuss it.

That's too bad, because I wanted to ask him if someone at Deaconess Associations, the $350 million health care corporation that owns the Heimlich Institute, had pulled his choke chain.

I got another correction from an unexpected venue, a new website called, apparently set up to promote Heimlich's Maneuvers.

Here's a screen shot last week from my father's bio page on the site:

To quote Borat -- NOT!

Melinda Zemper (source)
So I sent the correct information (which I'd obtained from a New York State agency) to Melinda Zemper, press agent for the Heimlich Institute and Deaconess, and a board member of the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting.

Here's the resulting fix on the page as of today:

To anyone else writing about my father's career, if you need a fact-checker, per Chris Montez's groovy, improbable 1966 hit version of the classic song written by the great Tony Hatch, here's my invitation:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"The Heimlich Operation," a lie that won't die, Part I: Publishers Weekly and Kirkus get it wrong, then update their reviews of my father's memoir to credit Dr. Dan Gavriliu

Click here for the complete article
Via Thomas Francis's two-part November 2005 "Heimlich expose" in Radar Magazine:
Dr. Heimlich's first claim to medical fame was a surgical technique that involved replacing a patient's damaged esophagus with a gastric tube. In 1955 Heimlich had published a paper in the journal Surgery describing how he had performed the operation on dogs. A Romanian physician, Dr. Dan Gavriliu, wrote to Surgery to point out that he'd been performing the same operation successfully on humans for four years.

Karen discovered a 1957 article in Surgery written by Heimlich in which he conceded that Gavriliu was indeed first to perform the operation on humans. It might have been chalked up to coincidence - two inventors arriving at an idea within a few years of each other - except that Heimlich still takes credit for the "Heimlich Operation" on his website.

...Peter leaked the story to the Cincinnati Enquirer, whose front page expose in March 2003 quoted Gavriliu as calling Heimlich a "thief." In the article Heimlich admitted again that Gavriliu had been the first to perform the procedure and insisted he had given Gavriliu credit, which he had, though selectively and in most cases well out of the public eye.
Via Heimlich Falsely Claims He Invented Procedure by Robert Anglen, Cincinnati Enquirer, March 16, 2003
(Heimlich) for years has taken full credit for the operation.
In the 1998 Encyclopedia Britannica medical annual:

"I conceived of an operation to replace the esophagus. After successfully performing the procedure on a series of patients, I presented the results at an American Medical Association meeting."

In the May-June 1995 issue of Navy Medicine:

"My specialty resulted from developing the reversed gastric tube operation for esophageal replacement. Previous attempts at replacing the esophagus out of the upper stomach and intestine were not very successful."

In Who's Who in America 2002:

"I have never been satisfied with existing methods and seek to simplify and improve them. After devising an operation for replacement of the esophagus, I became aware that with one such discovery I could help more people in a few weeks than in my entire lifetime as a surgeon in the operating room."

"Let Heimlich be a pig if he wants to steal an operation and put his name on it," says retired New York surgeon Eugene Albu. "He changed the name from the Gavriliu Operation to the Gavriliu-Heimlich Operation. Then it became the Heimlich Operation later on."
After the Enquirer gave my father his long-overdue comeuppance, who'd be daft enough to try to  defend him?

My brother may be ready and willing (if not particularly able) to deliver such baloney, but the facts have been settled in the reality-based community, right?

For example, here's an editor's  note in the 2007 edition of Dr. Josef Fischer's Mastery of Surgery:

Nevertheless --  per an item I blogged a couple weeks ago, How did (the) long-debunked "Heimlich Operation" lie get into Publishers Weekly review of my father's autobiography? -- the truth is still pulling its boots on.

Here's a screenshot from the original Publishers Weekly review:

After I wrote to PW Reviews Director Louise Ermelino, the  review was updated:

The same thing happened with a November 26, 2013 review by Kirkus Reviews. Here's the before and after:

Both updates still provide my father with a measure of (undeserved) credit, but they're short reviews and readers who see Dr. Dan Gavriliu's name can Google their way to learning more.

And if you're fluent in Romanian, you can read the chapter from Dan's 2004 autobiography, Memories...Memories... (which he sent me at the time) in which he discusses my father's conduct and how Robert Anglen's Enquirer article came to be published.

Miruna Munteanu (source)
There have also been a couple of strong articles in the Romanian press by veteran reporter Miruna Munteanu of Bucharest.

Here are links to her stories via Google Translate, The genius of a Romanian surgeon was recognized (ZIUA, April 1, 2006, which includes an interview with me) and A miserable pension for  legendary surgeon (, November 7, 2008) which includes:
Acclaimed professor Dan Gavriliu the first surgeon in the world who succeeded in 1951, complete replacement of an organ inventing reverse gastric tube procedure, lives today at age 93 with a pension of 749 lei per month.
...Professor Dan Gavriliu receives the monthly equivalent of about 250 dollars. And a not unimportant detail, Dr. Henry Heimlich is a multimillionaire.
In Part II, I'll be addressing problems with my father's version in his memoir that's due to be published by Prometheus Books on February 11.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Video of yesterday's oral arguments before the IL Supreme Court re: the Melongo eavesdropping case -- any legal eagles out there want to comment?

Via an article by reporter Jack Bouboushian in yesterday's Courthouse News Service:
The (Illinois Supreme Court) is considering the constitutionality of the (IL eavesdropping) law after a woman prosecuted under it was incarcerated for over 18 months before her trial ended with a hung jury.

Annabel Melongo was once an employee of the Save-A-Life Foundation, an Illinois charity that has been accused of dishonesty or financial impropriety. After secretly recording her phone conversations with a Cook County court reporter and posting those tapes on a personal website, she was charged in 2010 with violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, a law that requires a person to obtain the consent of anyone whose conversation he records.

A judge ultimately found for Melonga in her civil suit against the state, leading the Illinois Supreme Court to hold oral arguments today on the state's appeal.
...The ACLU of Illinois came down in an amicus brief squarely on the side of Melongo, who filed her brief with the high court on Dec. 6.

...An opening and reply brief are also available from Illinois. Melongo meanwhile is also suing the state in federal court for violations of her civil rights.
(First reported by The Sidebar, click here for a copy of Melongo's federal lawsuit.)

The Supreme Court's website posted video and audio versions of yesterday's hearing.

Here's a copy of the video I found on YouTube (with some minimal added graphic identifiers). It begins with Cook County Assistant State's Attorney's Alan Spellberg presenting the state's case. At time stamp 18:30, attorney Gabriel Plotkin of the Chicago law firm Miller Shakman and Beem LLP presents his argument on behalf of Ms. Melongo.

From an unsigned e-mail I received this morning identified only as originating from "Team Melongo":
The courtroom was so packed that some people had to watch the hearing in a screen at an adjacent room.
What's next? This morning I asked Gabriel Plotkin, who responded:
The next step is to wait for a written opinion from the Supreme Court. That will certainly take weeks, and likely months.
Any attorneys or legal experts out there want to share your thoughts for possible publication, signed or unsigned?

If so, feel free to e-mail me.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

UK pooch challenges U.S. Surgeon General's choking rescue recommendations!


Via the June 18, 2013 Houston Chronicle
There has been an ongoing debate about the Heimlich maneuver and whether or not it is the most effective method. In 1985, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “Millions of Americans have been taught to treat persons who are choking with back blows, chest thrusts and abdominal thrusts. Now, they must be advised…and I ask for the participation of the Red Cross, the American Heart Association and public health authorities everywhere…that these methods are hazardous, even lethal.”
The American Heart Association and American Red Cross criticized Dr. Koop, but later followed suggested guidelines by only teaching the Heimlich. In 2005, the AHA and ARC changed their position by stating that “back blows, abdominal thrusts and chest compressions are equally effective” treatments for responding to a choking emergency.
Via a February 21, 2007 Creators Syndicate column by Lenore Skenazy: 
What most people don't realize, Dr. Heimlich's son, Peter Heimlich, said, is that "Koop was an old friend of my father's, and he did it as a buddy favor."

Lesley Hailwood and Nell (source)

Now a four-legged medical researcher named Nell (pictured above) has entered the debate to further challenge the late Dr. Koop's findings.

Via a report yesterday in the Liverpool Echo, here's how Lesley Hailwood described what happened after she started choking on a piece of chocolate:

After reading about this possible medical landmark, I contacted my friend, Charles W. Guildner MD of Everett, Washington.

Charles W. Guildner MD, July 2011; click here for contact his info

As Sidebar readers know, Dr. Guildner conducted a research study published in the September 1976 Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians (JACEP).

His results?

Chest thrusts were more effective than abdominal thrusts ("the Heimlich").

Per a 2007 Seattle Public Radio report, my father than tried to ruin him.
GUILDNER: "It's so repugnant to me the way Dr. Heimlich has bullied...He's a bully and he has bullied people into submission."
Long retired from medicine, Dr. Guildner is now a prominent fine-art photographer and teaches photography at the college level.

He's also a wry observer of the human condition, so who better to ask for a reaction comment about Nell's dramatic chest thrust rescue?

After I sent him the Liverpool article, here's what came back:
Yes, amazing isn't it? I have been training dogs to do this for many years. While in training the dogs act as though, yes, isn't it obvious that applying chest pressure is the logical thing to do?

Sometimes, dogs are a lot smarter than some people!
Sometimes even smarter than a Surgeon General.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How did long-debunked "Heimlich Operation" lie get into Publishers Weekly review of my father's autobiography?

In about six weeks, Prometheus Books is publishing my father's memoir, Heimlich's Maneuvers: My Seventy Year of Lifesaving Innovations.

Last week I noticed that my father -- or probably someone pretending to be him since he's almost 94 and lives in a retirement community in Cincinnati -- started the Twitter account @henryjheimlich, presumably to generate some book buzz.

This Tweet about a recent review of the book in Publishers Weekly got my attention:

From the November 25 review:
(Dr. Heimlich) proudly shares his astounding list of medical inventions, including a “reversed gastric tube operation” that allowed patients with damaged esophagi to eat again....

Via Heimlich falsely claims he invented surgical procedure -- Romanian replaced esophagus years before by Robert Anglen on the front page of the March 16, 2003 Cincinnati Enquirer:
For more than 40 years, Cincinnati icon Dr. Henry Heimlich has been taking credit for a world-famous (Reversed Gastric Tube) operation that was actually developed first by a Romanian surgeon behind the Iron Curtain.
In interviews, biographies and promotional materials, Heimlich has told anyone who would listen that he performed the world's first total organ replacement.
But even before Heimlich wrote his first article about the "Heimlich Operation" on dogs in 1955, the procedure had been performed dozens of times on humans by Romanian surgeon Dr. Dan Gavriliu, an Enquirer investigation has found.
Gavriliu now calls Heimlich a "liar and a thief." He says Heimlich not only took credit for the operation, but also lied when he said they co-authored a paper for an international surgery conference.
..."Let Heimlich be a pig if he wants to steal an operation and put his name on it," says retired New York surgeon Eugene Albu. "He changed the name from the Gavriliu Operation to the Gavriliu-Heimlich Operation. Then it became the Heimlich Operation later on."

Albu, 78, was a professor at New York's Albert Einstein University. Before coming to America in 1978, he worked with Gavriliu on the reversed gastric tube operation in Romania and throughout Europe.
And as I reported a couple months ago, Lisa Michalski at Prometheus wrote me that in his book, my father credits Dr. Gavriliu with inventing the operation.

So how did the bogus information make it into the Publishers Weekly review?

I don't know, but I sent an inquiry to Louisa Ermelino, PW's Reviews Director, who promptly agreed to look into the matter. (When I have more info, I'll post an update.)

By the way, last week I subscribed to my father's Twitter account.

That didn't last long: