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119 Foster Street, Building R, 2nd Floor
Peabody, Massachusetts 01960
March 6, 2005
Henry J. Heimlich, MD, President
Eric G. Spletzer, PhD, Research Director
The Heimlich Institute
311 Straight St.
Cincinnati, OH 45219-9957
Dear Dr. Heimlich and Dr. Spletzer:
NCAHF is examining the basis for use of abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) as the
initial treatment for drowning/near-drowning.
On your Website you have posted an article relevant to this issue:
“Scientific Facts Show Heimlich Maneuver Best Method For Drowning Resuscitation in
Drowning” by Henry J. Heimlich, MD, ScD and Eric G. Spletzer, PhD, 1999, New
Perspectives on Intervention and Prevention
In this article you state, “The scientific data provided in this article prove that the
Heimlich maneuver is the best method for saving drowning victims.” However, no data
are presented by you in the article. The article is merely a non-critical review of a portion
of the available literature on the topic.
I am writing to obtain whatever data you do have to support the use of abdominal thrusts
in the initial management of drowning before we compile our review on the subject.
NCAHF is open-minded on the topic and wishes to allow you this opportunity to present
whatever data and case reports you have on the subject of drowning/near drowning that
support your point of view.
It has come to our attention that recent news articles have raised concerns that case
reports supporting the use of abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) for drowning
treatment have numerous inconsistencies, and some elements that do not support your
advocacy of the procedure. To my knowledge you have not responded to any of these
allegations with clear, well-documented medical records or similar data.
In a March 4, 2004 letter, Peter Wernicki MD, medical advisor to the US Lifesaving
Association, asked Dr. Heimlich to provide evidence for two cases he published in their
organization’s magazine - the so-called Lima, Ohio and Dr. Victor Esch cases. Dr.
Heimlich has repeatedly mentioned and cited both cases and presented them to national
committees, including those of the Institute of Medicine and the American Heart
In his April 19, 2004 reply to Dr. Wernicki, Dr. Heimlich was apparently unresponsive
and did not provide any evidence to support either case.
In order to assess these cases, we are requesting that you provide such data in response to
this letter. An extensive search has not yielded an appropriately documented published
account of either case.
Further, a December 8, 2004 article in the Detroit Metro Times indicates that another of
Dr. Heimlich’s published cases, the so-called Dallas Ambulance case, is similarly
Other cases are cited and referenced in the following articles:
“Subdiaphragmatic Pressure to Expel Water From the Lungs of Drowning Persons” by
Henry J. Heimlich MD, September 1981, Annals of Emergency Medicine
"Using the Heimlich Maneuver to Save Near Drowning Victims" by Henry J. Heimlich
MD and Edward A. Patrick MD, August 1988, Postgraduate Medicine
"Heimlich Maneuver for Near Drowning: Getting Water Out of Victims Airways" by
Henry J. Heimlich MD, October 1991, The Physician and Sportsmedicine
The Heimlich Maneuver in Infants and Children: The Best Treatment for Saving
“Drowning and Choking Victims” by Henry J. Heimlich MD, 1994, Bulletin of Science,
Technology, and Society.
The kinds of evidence we seek should be readily in your files and would include hospital
reports; interviews/affidavits of medical personnel, rescuers, and victims; EMT reports,
ambulance run sheets, etc. Here are the cases you published in the above articles:
1) Erin Snow/Lima case: Dr. Edward A. Patrick, rescuer – June 22, 1980, Lima, OH
2) Donald Urquhart case: Dr. Victor H. Esch, rescuer – August 14, 1974, Rehoboth
[We note that in Dr. Heimlich’s April 19, 2004 letter to Dr. Wernicki it was stated that
was no supporting evidence for the above two cases. If any evidence has been located
since the letter to Dr. Wernicki was written, please provide it.]
3) William Mummert case: Jordan Mencher, rescuer – August 15, 1974, Cape Henlopen,
4) Sean Nesbitt/Dallas Ambulance case (Dallas, PA): Robert Besecker, rescuer – August
12, 1981, Dallas, PA
5) Shawn Alexander case: Terry Watkins, rescuer – August 3, 1986, Destin, FL
6) Deshun Richardson case: Ron Watson (then US Lifesaving Association vicepresident), rescuer – August 13, 1995, Jacksonville, FL
[We further note that in his April 19, 2004 reply to Dr. Wernicki of the US Lifesaving
Association, Dr. Heimlich cited the Ron Watson and Terry Watkins cases. Thus it is safe
to assume that Dr. Heimlich has medical case report evidence to substantiate both cases.]
7) Natasha Stuckey case: Todd Schebor and Jack Baker, rescuers, June 25, 1993,
Cincinnati, OH (This case was featured in a July 16, 1993 “CBS This Morning” news
story in which you appeared and in a July 18, 1993 Cincinnati Enquirer column by John
Eckberg which quoted you.)
8) In another article, “A Lifesaving Maneuver to Prevent Food-Choking” by Henry J.
Heimlich MD, October 27, 1975, Journal of the American Medical Association, five
reports are noted that describe using abdominal thrusts on drowning victims where,
“allegedly established life-saving techniques had been attempted first by competent firstaid personnel and proved unsuccessful.” The victims, one adult and four children aged 4
to 14 years, reportedly recovered after the abdominal thrust maneuver was applied. Please
provide details and evidence for these five cases.
In a 1983 interview in Omni magazine, Dr. Heimlich stated, “Controversy helps in
science because it exposes the facts. I don’t want my work to go uncriticized.
Challenging it brings out all the possible opposition to it and allows me to explain my
ideas – bring them out into the open.” We take you at your word, and are thus asking for
the proof you claim to have on these cases.
Thank you for your prompt attention to our request, and we eagerly await your detailed
reply and data. You can reach me directly at: 617-594-7776 with regard to this request.
Robert S. Baratz, MD, PhD, DDS
President, National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc.