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Henry Heimlich (1920 - 2016)

AP Photo / Al Behrman

Henry Heimlich (1920 - 2016)

Henry Heimlich, the physician who was known best for inventing the anti-choking Heimlich maneuver, died Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio, according to multiple news sources. He was 96.

He died from complications resulting from a heart attack that he had Monday, according to a statement from his family.

In 1974, while working as the director of surgery at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, he published an article detailing the treatment for choking victims that bears his name. The technique calls for rescuers to apply abdominal thrusts, forcing air out of the lungs to push the obstruction out of the windpipe. Although others have claimed Heimlich was not solely responsible for the creation of the life-saving treatment, the name “Heimlich maneuver” stuck and has often been portrayed movies and TV shows.

“I know the maneuver saves lives, and I want it to be used and remembered,” he told The Associated Press. “I felt I had to have it down in print so the public will have the correct information.”

Another important life-saving invention was the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve. The valve allows drainage of blood and air from the chest cavity, allowing a collapsed lung to expand. This device, which the doctor invented after witnessing the death of a Chinese soldier during World War II, is in everyday use on battlefields and in emergency rooms.


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Born Feb. 3, 1920, in Wilmington, Delaware, Heimlich graduated from the Weill Cornell Medical College in 1943. During World War II, he was sent by the U.S. Navy to treat Chinese and American soldiers fighting the Japanese in the Gobi Desert. He then completed a residency in thoracic surgery.

He married Jane Murray, a daughter of the famous ballroom dancing instructor Arthur Murray, who preceded him in death.

Some of Heimlich’s views have been contentious. He promoted the use of the Heimlich maneuver on drowning victims. This application of the procedure is not supported by medical groups like the American Red Cross.

Later in life, he advocated for treating AIDS/HIV patients with malaria. Other doctors objected to his experiments with malariotherapy on HIV patients in China and described them as dangerous. His son Peter has also been a vocal critic of his father’s work.

Many others, however, have praised Heimlich for his efforts to save lives.

“My father was a great man who saved many lives,” said son Phil Heimlich, an attorney and former Hamilton County commissioner. “He will be missed not only by his family but by all of humanity.”

Two sons and two daughters survive Dr. Heimlich.

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