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Monday, May 29, 2006

New Letter to The Enquirer, from Robert S. Baratz, MD, PhD, DDS

Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati

Henry Heimlich, who has never apparently treated a drowning victim, who was not an emergency physician, and who was dismissed as the chief of surgery at the Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati under suspicious circumstances at the height of his career is now proclaimed by the Cincinnati Enquirer as an expert in drowning.  The paper recommended on 5/27/2006, and, after being told Heimlich’s procedure is dangerous and not approved for drowning has now redrawn their graphic on 5/29/2006 but continues to recommend abdominal thrusts for removal of non-existent water from the lungs.  Their basis for this is: because Henry Heimlich says so.  Who cares about all the established textbooks and authorities on near-drowning.

Am I watching a re-issue of the 60’s film Mondo Cane? (The World Gone to the Dogs)
When offered the chance to correct its error in publishing a dangerous and non-recommended method to treat drowning, the Enquirer not only fumbled the ball it ran the wrong way.
Why not treat drowning by drunken Joe’s method of falling on your belly?  or with moonbeams?  Joe is quite convinced his method works and is just as credible as Heimlich.  His data are his opinion too.
What makes Heimlich remotely credible for any treatment of drowning other than “because he says so”?  Not one authoritative body to which Heimlich ever presented his speculations on how to treat drowning adopted his method as the way to treat drowning—and that includes the Red Cross, Institute of Medicine and American Heart Association.  He has never presented any credible data.
Heimlich popularized abdominal thrusts for treating choking, which has regularly been shown to be less effective than chest thrusts by several independent medical scientists with actual measurements.  Near drowning treatment with CPR is also supported with hard data.  Instead of adopting such better methods and stopping ones that don’t work, Heimlich has not acted in the public interest in his relentless self-promotion.  .
When given a chance to correct its original gaffe the Enquirer has done a second belly flop.  Are you following the advice of Drunken Joe?  Why the Enquirer would give credence to discredited methods is worthy of an investigation.
Health fraud is the promotion of the unproven without a disclaimer.  The Enquirer piece continues to fit that definition.
This issue is not about a newspaper saving face, it is about saving lives.  Any lives lost by the Enquirer’s recommendations will hang on its doorposts..  The First Amendment does not give you a right to publish dangerous and unsupported information on how to treat near-drowning.
Robert S. Baratz, MD, PhD, DDS
President, National Council Against Health Fraud
Peabody, Massachusetts

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