The famed inventor of the life-saving Heimlich maneuver, Dr. Henry Heimlich, is now proposing that AIDS can be cured by injecting patients with malaria, a theory denounced by leading AIDS researchers as dangerous, scientifically unfounded and unethical.
"We allow the malaria to run for three weeks, and then we cure it," says Dr. Heimlich, now 87 years-old.
In a study commissioned by Dr. Heimlich, eight human subjects have already been injected with a form of malaria in China in the 1990s, and he is now involved with a research project involving AIDS patients in Ethiopia who are initially left untreated for malaria with available medicines.
"It gives off substances that strengthen their immune systems," says Dr. Heimlich. But leading AIDS researchers and medical ethicists say they are appalled. Photos: Dr. Heimlich’s ‘Maneuvers’ "It is scientifically unsound, and I think it would be ethically questionable," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, who has been seeking a cure for AIDS since it was first identified in the 1980s. Dr. Fauci says there is no evidence, even in countries where malaria is prevalent, that the "malariotherapy" has any effect on AIDS. "And it does have the fundamental potential of actually killing you," Dr. Fauci says. "It can cause organ system damage; it can elevate your temperatures to the point that it can do tissue damage to you." At various times, Dr. Heimlich has also proposed that cancer and Lyme disease could be cured with "malariotherapy." As with AIDS, the theories have been dismissed by leading scientists. Yet, Dr. Heimlich continues to press his theories, leading one of his own sons to denounce his father as a fraud. "For the last 30 years, my father has devoted himself to promoting a whole series of discredited, experimental, dubious medical theories which every medical expert says are either useless, dangerous or crackpot," Heimlich’s second son, Peter, said in an interview to be broadcast Friday on "20/20." In a family feud that is playing out like a Greek tragedy, the son has waged a five-year campaign on the Internet to denounce his father and his medical theories. "I don’t think I am a bad son," Peter Heimlich said. "If you care about somebody, you don’t let them hurt themselves or hurt others." The son says he has no question about the effectiveness of the maneuver his father invented to save choking victims, but that his father is trading on its reputation. "And I think that reputation has allowed him to proceed and give him kind of a halo and give him cover to promote all these other dangerous ideas," the younger Heimlich says. Among them, says the Heimlich son, is his father’s efforts to get the choking maneuver used to treat asthma, cystic fibrosis and near drowning victims. No major medical group has endorsed such uses, and leading emergency medicine experts say the use of the maneuver as a first response on drowning victims could be dangerous. Dr. Peter Rosen, the author of a report for the National Academy of Sciences, says unconscious victims could sustain damage to their livers if the Heimlich maneuver is performed on them. "It would be very, very easy, especially in a child, to tear the right lobe of the liver, and then the child would die of hemorrhage," Dr. Rosen told "20/20." Dr. Heimlich declined to speak with "20/20," but two of his other children defended their father and criticized their brother Peter. "It was a very painful thing for my parents," said eldest son Phil Heimlich, a former public official in Cincinnati. He said his brother Peter had initially used pseudonyms to post his attacks on the Internet and in e-mails. "That was bad enough, but when it turns out to be your son, I think it was a very, very difficult thing for my folks to take," Phil Heimlich said. "I haven’t found anything he said that has any real credibility to it," he said, referring to his brother Peter. "My father, because he’s a pioneer, has always been criticized, attacked by the medical establishment whenever he’s come out with one of his major discoveries." Dr. Heimlich’s theory to use malaria to cure AIDS, he said, simply builds on the work of a doctor who won the Nobel Prize in 1927 for using malaria to treat syphilis. "There are some Nobel prizes they would like to take back, and I believe that’s one of them," said Dr. Fauci. "It’s a dangerous thing to do. It just seems inexplicable to me that he is doing this." This post has been updated. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?