My Apocryphal Heimlich Maneuver

I recieved this email in response to my last post and the reference to Dr. Heimlich.

Hello Thomas,

I came across your blog item which included:

A few years ago I read a story about Dr. Heimlich of the Heimlich Maneuver fame. Apparently he was ill and reaching the end of his life and had never had the opportunity to actually use his maneuver on a choking victim. Despite all of the lives he had indirectly saved he was troubled that he never got to use the maneuver. So he started hanging out at restaurants and other places where people eat in public as much as possible just hoping that someone would begin to choke and need his assistance.

You may be referring to my September 17, 2005 article, Bankers Club, 2001: Dr. Heimlich To The Rescue? If so, allow me to clarify.

Briefly, reporters at major media outlets – The New Yorker, BBC News, and the Chicago Sun-Times – all published a story that Dr. Heimlich told them, that in 2001 he rescued a choking victim using the Heimlich maneuver at the Banker’s Club, a well-known private club here in Cincinnati. Despite repeated attempts to verify the story with Dr. Heimlich, his press agent, and a Banker’s Club employee who provided the information to one reporter, no one would provide any facts which might substantiate the story: the date, the alleged victim’s name, any witnesses, etc.

So did those major media outlets get snookered? If so, nobody’s talking. For example, shortly after The New Yorker published the item, I wrote and asked them to fact-check what they’d published. They refused. This from a magazine that endlessly trumpets its fact-checking department? I guess their corrections department isn’t as diligent.

By the way, I’m not sure where you got the information about Dr. Heimlich being ill. I understand he turned 88 last month, is in good health, and still travels.


The Dean of Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Beacon

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