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US doctor Henry Heimlich, inventor of first aid choking procedure, dies at 96

The US doctor, who created the abdominal thrust "Heimlich maneuver" to help choking victims, has passed away at the age of 96. Invented in 1974, Henry Heimlich's technique is estimated to have saved thousands of lives.

Henry Heimlich, a US doctor who invented first aide technique that bears his name died at a Cincinnati, Ohio hospital, his family said on Saturday.

Heimlich passed away at the age of 96 after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week.

"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," his family said in the statement.

USA Dr. Henry Heimlich (picture alliance/AP Photo/C. Krupa)

Henry Heimlich (pictured above right) involves applying a quick thrust above a choking victim's navel

Rescuers using the "Heimlich maneuver" wrap their arms around the choking victim, with both hands clasped together, delivering a sharp, upward thrust above the person's navel. The resulting burst of air from the lungs can then push out objects obstructing the windpipe and prevent suffocation.

Heimlich, a thoracic surgeon, created the ground-breaking technique in 1974 after reading reports about the high rates of death from choking. He led a team of researchers at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, testing the procedure by putting a balloon at one end down an anesthetized dog's throat and using the maneuver to force the dog to expel the obstruction.

He even used the technique himself earlier this year on a woman whose airway was blocked by a piece of hamburger during a meal at Heimlich's retirement home.

The "Heimlich maneuver" became a household name in the US and earned the late surgeon several awards. The technique can be used by ordinary people as it requires no equipment, no great strength and minimal training.

The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association both support using the maneuver to help choking victims, albeit the Red Cross recommends a multiple method approach.

Heimlich often found himself at odds with the established medical community for some of his views, including claims that his maneuver should be used to save drowning victims.

He also drew sharp criticism for his theory to treat HIV - which involved injecting patients with a curable form of malaria to trigger immunity. Medical experts have criticized Heimlich for conducting malariotherapy studies on HIV patients in China.

The chest surgeon also developed the Heimlich chest drain valve, a medical device to prevent the lungs from collapsing after chest trauma.

He is survived by two daughters and two sons.

rs/kl (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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