Henry Heimlich, inventor of maneuver to save choking victims, dies at 96
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Henry Heimlich, inventor of maneuver to save choking victims, dies at 96

(JTA) — Henry Heimlich, who invented the life-saving technique to save choking victims, has died.

Heimlich died on Saturday at a hospital in Cincinnati at the age of 96 from complications of a massive heart attack he had on Dec. 12.

Heimlich used the maneuver named after him in May to save a fellow resident at a Cincinnati retirement home where he lived, reportedly the first time he had used it to save a person’s life.

Heimlich published an article about the maneuver, using abdominal thrusts, in 1974. Prior to that, rescue guidelines called for blows to the back to dislodge the airway blockages. Heimlich believed this could further entrench the blockage. He said his maneuver has saved over 100,000 lives, according to the Washington Post.

“Dad was a hero to many people around the world for a simple reason: He helped save untold numbers of lives through the innovation of common-sense procedures and devices. But he was not only a physician and medical inventor, he was also a humanitarian and a loving and devoted son, husband, father and grandfather,” his family said in a statement.

In 1962, Heimlich invented the chest drainage flutter valve, which was also called the Heimlich valve.

In the 1980s and 1990s he was an advocate of malaria therapy, the deliberate infection of a person with benign malaria in order to defeat diseases such as cancer, disease and AIDS, saying the high fever associated with malaria would stimulate the body’s immune system. The therapy’s efficacy has never been proven.

He was born in Wilmington, Delaware, to Mary Epstein and Philip Heimlich. His paternal grandparents were Hungarian Jewish immigrants, and his maternal grandparents were Russian Jews.

He was married to Jane Murray, daughter of ballroom-dancing businessman Arthur Murray, who predeceased him. The couple had four children.