18 Dec 2016

Henry Heimlich, manoevre inventor, dies age 96

9:14 am on 18 December 2016

The doctor who created the Heimlich manoeuvre, which has saved the lives of thousands of choking victims since the 1970s, has died.

Henry Heimlich, the creator of the manoeuvre which bears his name.

Dr Heimlich speaks to the BBC in May about using his own manoeuvre. Photo: Screenshot / BBC

United States media reports say Henry Heimlich has died at age 96 in Cincinnati.

Dr Heimlich's family said he died from complications from a heart attack he suffered earlier in the week.

He came up with the Heimlich manoeuvre, which abruptly squeezes a victim's abdomen to push stuck objects out of the windpipe, while he was director of surgery at the Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati in 1974.

In May he used the technique himself to save a woman at his retirement home, dislodging a piece of meat with a bone in it from the airway of an 87-year-old woman.

In a statement released to the media, Dr Heimlich's family said he had been "a hero to many people around the world".

"From the time Dad began his medical career in New York City, to the time he practised as a thoracic surgeon in Cincinnati, he was committed to coming up with simple, effective ideas that helped save lives and significantly improved people's quality of life," it said.

The anti-choking manoeuvre was not Dr Heimlich's only success. In 1962 he developed the Heimlich Chest Drain Valve which was credited with saving many soldiers' lives in the Vietnam War and is still used for patients undergoing chest surgery.

His fiercest critic turned out to be son Peter, who had once played in a band called Choke and wrote the music for Heimlich's promotional film. The son devoted himself to debunking Dr Heimlich's work - first in a pseudonymous blog - and denounced him as the creator of "a remarkable unseen history of fraud".

Dr Heimlich's work with malarial therapy to fight AIDS was briefly a popular cause in the mid-1990s, especially in Hollywood, where celebrities hosted fundraisers for his research and donors included Jack Nicholson, Bob Hope and Ron Howard.

Dr Edward Patrick, a longtime collaborator who died in 2009, issued a press release in 2003 saying he was the co-developer of the Heimlich Maneuver.

Dr Heimlich and Jane Murray, daughter of dance school magnate Arthur Murray and a proponent of alternative medical methods, were married from 1951 until her death in 2012. They had four children.