Imagine the Dewlap: Central Casting villain leads central planning boondoggle! With special all-choking featurette

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Shawnee Hoover of the Exxpose Exxon campaign wants us to publicize former ExxonMobile CEO Lee Raymond's involvement in a new Oil and Gas Study sponsored by the Department of Energy. Raymond's ready-for-an-Oliver-Stone-movie petrovillain look, including a massive neck, have made him a favorite cartoon villain for petrorexia sufferers everywhere, who find it all too easy to believe the jolly oil tycoon is actually a 12-foot lizard. Exxpose Exxon is urging resistance to Raymond's heading the National Petroleum Council. Hoover warns:

Though President Bush has alerted Americans to our oil addiction, he is now putting the most successful pusher of that product in charge of determining our energy future. When many of our future solutions hinge on buying and burning less oil, it seems obvious that the last people that should be charting that course is the oil industry itself. Mr. Raymond's repeated criticism of U.S. energy independence, investments in renewable energy, peak oil, and policies to help combat global warming have made it clear exactly where he stands.

Fun stuff, but if I may go completely off-topic, this dustup reminds me that in my previous story about Raymond, his critics, oil panics, and crazy attempts to solve our "gas crisis," I made a passing reference to the Heimlich maneuver. This prompted a fascinating response from an emailer purporting to be Peter Heimlich, the son of the inventor of the legendary anti-choking technique. I've been looking for an excuse to publish that one for a while, so swallow this:

Three years ago my wife and I began researching my father's career. To our astonishment, we turned up a remarkable history of fraud. To make a long story short, he's a charalatan, albeit a singular one. Among other more serious issues, it's clear he didn't invent the Heimlich maneuver, but appropriated the idea from a colleague. Our original research has been the basis of dozens of articles in publications which include the New York Times, LA Times, Reuters, and many others. We were recently profiled in a two-part feature in Radar Magazine. For more information and for links to these articles, you may wish to visit our website.

You should know that my father's frequent claim which you repeated, that backslaps "push lodged objects down the esophagus," is dubious. The only scientific evidence supporting that claim is a 1982 study by the late pediatrician, Richard Day MD. My research uncovered that my father clandestinely paid for the Day study. The study was presented by Day and my father to a national committee of the American Heart Association (AHA) in 1985 which—after an overheated ten-year media campaign conducted by my father against the AHA and the American Red Cross—removed backslaps from choking rescue guidelines. Since then, in this country anyway, it's been the Heimlich maneuver and nothing else when it comes to choking rescue.

It's a different story in Europe and most of the rest of the world which continued to teach backslaps as the first step in choking rescue since backsalps are less invasive than abdominal thrusts (the "Heimlich maneuver") which has been associated with a variety of injuries. And my father's "celebrity doctor" image had little, if any influence outside the US.

Fast forward to December 2005, the AHA recently revised choking guidelines. Both backslaps and chest thrust are again in the guidelines and the phrase "Heimlich maneuver" has been deleted in favor of "abdominal thrusts." For more on chest thrusts as well as further commentary on my father's conduct, you may wish to read this recent letter. The editor's note that follows includes a link to the new AHA guidelines.

What's more, I have an e-mail from Roger White MD, a world-respected emergency medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic, who was chairman of the 1985 AHA committee, the one that eliminated backslaps. Dr. White wrote:

There never was any science here; Heimlich overpowered science all along the way with his slick tactics and intimidation, and everyone, including us at AHA, caved in…We were taken….

Finally, your article included a link to a 1988 article co-authored by my father and Dr. Edward A. Patrick. If you're unfamiliar with Dr. Patrick, he figures prominently in my father's career. Dr. Patrick was the subject of this 2004 Cleveland newsweekly cover story, "Playing Doctor," which raises questions about the legitimacy of his credentials.

So, sorry to say, the actual history doesn't bolster the point you were making in your column. Not that I fault you. For over 30 years my father has been relentlessly repeating the "deadly backslaps" myth and it has entered the popular history as an unexamined trueism.

Now imagine what combination of compression, backslaps, stomach pushes, and solid-fuel rocketry would be required to dislodge half a sandwich from Lee Raymond's throat.