Monday, January 2, 2017

My inquiry to the Cincinnati Enquirer re: my father's obituary by reporter Cliff Radel

January 2, 2017

Peter Bhatia
Editor and Vice President of Audience Engagement
Enquirer Media

Good afternoon Peter,

For an item I'm reporting on my blog, I'd appreciate your answers to some quick questions re:
Cliff Radel's December 17, 2016 Enquirer article, Cincy native Dr. Henry Heimlich dies at 96 which was published the same day by USA Today. (Quotes below from the article are in bold.)

1) Heimlich decided to become a doctor, as he related in 2013, “when I was a child. We had a female physician, Dr. Belle Jacobson, who came to the house. A female doctor was a rarity back then. And female doctors were viewed with great prejudice. But having her for my doctor seemed normal to me.”

Dr. Jacobson served as calming influence in the Heimlich household. “When someone was sick or injured in the house, there was a feeling of terror,” he recalled. “But, when she walked into the house, everybody calmed down. They knew everything would be taken care of.”

In fact, per the corporate records for The Heimlich Medical Group, a short-lived clinic in New Rochelle, NY, Belle Jacobson MD was my father's business partner in the early 1960s:

Via the April 12, 2007 Portland Tribune:
"I think some of his (Henry Heimlich's) ideas are delusional," said Robert S. Baratz, physician president of the Massachusetts-based National Council Against Health Fraud...
Perhaps my father's recollection of Dr. Jacobson was one of those delusions? In any event, do you think Cliff's article should be updated with the information that she was his business partner in the Heimlich Medical Group?

2) “One night as the war was coming to an end in 1945, a Chinese soldier was brought to me with a chest wound,” (Dr.) Heimlich said. “I operated on him. But he died in my hands.

“The next day, I was feeling terrible.” Hoping to lift his spirits, he went for a ride on one of the horses assigned to the 12 American GIs. As he rode toward a nearby town, the Navy surgeon crossed paths with an oxcart.

“The cart was carrying the remains of that Chinese soldier,” Heimlich said. His voice quaked with emotion 68 years after the first seeing that cart.

“I never forgot that sight,” he said. “And, I never forgot how he died in my hands.” He wondered if he could have done more. He worried that if he had known more about draining chest wounds, the man might have lived.

Via Polarizing Doctor by Lucy May, WCPO Insider Monthly, March 2014:

As widely reported, my father had a career history of providing false information to reporters. For example, you may recall that last May he got caught lying to reporters Kevin Grasha at the Enquirer, Christine Hauser at the New York Times, and Scott Wegener at WCPO-TV News.

Given my father's credibility problems, do you think Cliff's article should be updated to reflect Fred Webster's recollections?

3) Via Henry J. Heimlich, inventor of lifesaving technique for choking victims, dies at 96 by Sindya H. Bhanoo, Washington Post, December 17, 2016:
Dr. Heimlich zealously promoted lifesaving procedures and techniques he invented or refined. Besides the first-aid rescue maneuver introduced in 1974, these advances included a...surgical procedure he helped develop in the 1950s for people with severe esophageal damage

...In later decades, a dispute arose over whether Dr. Heimlich had purposely underplayed the contribution of a Romanian surgeon who performed the procedure on a person before he did. That doctor, Dan Gavriliu, called Dr. Heimlich a “liar and thief” when the Cincinnati Enquirer contacted him in 2003 for an investigative story about Dr. Heimlich’s career.
Cliff's article includes no mention of the esophagus operation or my father getting busted by Enquirer. (As you know, Robert Anglen's 2003 expose was based on research by my wife and me.) And last May the Enquirer again reported the information. Therefore, to some readers, Cliff's failure to report the information may seem conspicuous by its absence.

What's your opinion?

4) The Red Cross’ inclusion of the back slaps offended Heimlich. So, in 1976, he asked the organization to remove his name from their first-aid literature for choking. That’s why the term “abdominal thrusts” is used.

That last sentence is contradicted by published information from the American Red Cross (ARC), so I'm trying to verify the accuracy of Cliff's assertion. Who at the ARC provided him with the information and on what date?

5) From data complied by the Cincinnati-based Heimlich Institute, the (Heimlich maneuver) has saved the lives of more than 100,000 choking victims...

My wife and I have been researching my father's career since 2002 and we've never heard of the Heimlich Institute compiling any such data. Would you please ask Cliff if he has any more information and, if not, would you please ask him or another Enquirer staffer to contact the Heimlich Institute to substantiate what specific data was collected (the data sources?, during what years?, etc.) and let me know the results?

6) Per former Enquirer reporter Ben Kaufman's December 22, 2016 Cincinnati CityBeat media watch column:

The (Enquirer's) headline called (Dr.) Heimlich a "Cincy native.” He was born in Wilmington, Del.

Cliff managed to get it right in the text...
Before coming to the Queen City, the Wilmington, Delaware native... presumably it was the headline writer's goof. In any event, do you think the online headline should be corrected?

7) The Lasker Awards, dubbed, “America’s Nobels” recognize scientists, including the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver, “who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of human disease.”

In what years were the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver awarded the Lasker?

8) Who was the supervising editor on Cliff's article?

Believe it or not, there are other problems with the article, but I don't want to take up more of my time or yours. (If you're curious, just ask and I'll fill you in.)

Big thanks for your time/attention and I look forward to receiving your answers. If you can get back to me by Friday, that would be great, but if you need more time, please advise and I'll do my best to accommodate.

Cheers, Peter

Peter M. Heimlich

ph: (208)474-7283


Robert S. Baratz MD PhD
Ben Kaufman
Lucy May
Cindy Capitani, New Rochelle Daily Voice

Maya Brainard PhD, Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation
Joanne Lipman, S
enior Vice President and Chief Content Officer, Gannett Inc.
Brent Jones, Standards Editor, USA Today