Updated December 31, 2016
Throughout Dr. Henry Heimlich’s seventy-year career, he was dedicated to finding simple solutions to complex problems affecting human health. History will remember him as the most impactful medical pioneer of the 20th century. He passed away this month, December 17, 2016, at age 96. Norman Vincent Peale, famed proponent of The Power of Positive Thinking, recognized that Dr. Heimlich “saved the lives of more human beings than any other person living today.” Credit for his humanitarian work is largely due to his invention of the Heimlich Maneuver for choking and near drowning victims, and the Heimlich Chest Valve for treating open chest wounds, most frequently occurring on war-torn battlefields.
Heimlich’s life was surrounded by controversy, especially from 1976 to 1985 when his staunch disagreements with the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross were well publicized. Both of these organizations taught rescuers to first perform a series of “back blows” to remove a “foreign body airway obstruction.” Unfortunately, back blows, which are still being recommended by these organizations, cause the breath-stopping materials to become more deeply lodged in the throat and forced further down into the windpipe (trachea).