Father of anti-choking bearhug technique Henry Heimlich dies at 96

Father of anti-choking bearhug technique Henry Heimlich dies at 96

Washington,Dec18:Henry Heimlich, the medical maverick who came up with a manoeuvre credited with saving thousands of choking victims but who damaged his standing as a proponent of the curative powers of malaria, died on Saturday at the age of 96.Heimlich died at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati of complications from a heart attack he suffered on Monday , his family said. A thoracic surgeon who often feuded with the medical community , Heimlich said that the manoeuvre that was named after him saved more than 100,000 lives. It made me appreciate how wonderful it has been to be able to save all those lives,” he once said.

Heimlich came up with the technique in 1974 after reading about the high rate of deaths in restaurants that first were attributed to heart attacks but later found to have been caused by diners choking on food. An ordinary person could be a hero with “the Heimlich Manoeuvre” -it requires no equipment, no great strength and only minimal training.

The popular wisdom at the time called for repeatedly slapping the back of person struggling with an obstruction of the passage to the lungs. But Heimlich believed the back slaps could force the blockage deeper. To prove his method, he took anesthetised lab dogs, blocked their windpipes with hunks of meat attached to strings in case of an emergency and developed a technique that would send his name around the world.

A man in Washington who came to a neighbour’s rescue was credited with being the first person to use the Heimlich Maneuver after reading a story about it. Among the users of the technique, was the aide who saved Ronald Reagan during his 1976 presidential campaign.

It took more than a decade for the medical establishment to adopt the Heimlich Manoeuvre. In 1984, Heimlich was given the Lasker Award for public service. In 1986, it was officially recommended as the primary anti-choking technique by the Red Cross, although the organisation reversed that decision in 2006.

Later, Heimlich said that the technique should also be used to clear mucus from the lungs during an asthma attack. Heimlich damaged his credibility further by espousing malaria therapy , saying the high fevers of malaria stimulated the body’s immune system to counter AIDS, cancer and Lyme disease.The Heimlich Manoeuvre called for the rescuer to stand behind the choking victim, apply the thumb-side of a fist to a spot just under the diaphragm and between the lungs. By pushing sharply on that spot, a surge of air from the lungs would then expel the blockage.