By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Rather than answer them directly, he issued a press release in 2003, saying he was the co-inventor of the Heimlich maneuver and that he thought of himself and Heimlich as similar to aviation's Wright brothers.
Peter says the genesis of the Heimlich maneuver is a complex puzzle he is still piecing together. "The Heimlich maneuver works, and I've never disputed that," he says. "The problem is that my father used his fame to promote it for medical conditions for which it has no application, like drowning, cystic fibrosis, asthma and even heart attacks."
The younger Heimlich relentlessly uncovered damaging details about his father's career. A comprehensive, and in many ways damning, critique was first published in the spring of 2003 with two front-page Cincinnati Enquirer stories, which ran a month apart (they grew in part from anonymous tips provided by Peter Heimlich).
One of many strange aspects of this Shakespearean saga is that Peter hid his true identity for the first two years of acting as the source. He initially contacted the media about his father's controversial research practices using the alias Holly Martins, the name of the Joseph Cotten character in the 1949 film-noir thriller The Third Man. He says he didn't want to become part of the story.
In 2005, Cincinnati's Business Courier outed Holly Martins as Peter Heimlich and laid bare the festering family feud. But his unmasking simply emboldened the son. The story found its way to several alternative-news weeklies around the country, from Cleveland and Detroit to Salt Lake City.
It reached critical mass in June 2007, when Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for ABC News' 20/20, documented the elder Heimlich's attempts to find a cure for cancer, AIDS and Lyme disease through the use of malaria-infected blood injections.
Ross also reported how the doctor had pushed the Heimlich maneuver as a drowning treatment long after the Red Cross and the American Heart Association said that it was dangerous. In that 20/20 report, Barnard defended Heimlich against a wide range of mainstream critics.
Today, three years later, when contacted by the Weekly, Barnard wouldn't come to the phone in his D.C. office to defend Heimlich, who has remained on PCRM's medical advisory board since 1986.
Says Peter: "My father is radioactive in medical circles, and Dr. Barnard was the last one defending him. Now it looks like even he won't do it."
Tearing down his father's reputation has been a painful process, he says. He's writing a book about him, called Outmaneuvered. "I'm still turning up new information every day."
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