FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live): If you were in the area of North University and 12th Avenue, you probably saw about a dozen people holding signs and banners. And you’ve no doubt heard about the Heimlich maneuver to save choking victims. But the group you saw protesting counted the inventor of that life-saving skill as a board member. Our investigation finds Dr. Henry Heimlich passed away last year, but his past is far from clean cut. And the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is promoting what some say is dangerous medical treatment.
When you go see your doctor you expect them to be well versed in the latest and greatest treatments right? 12,000 physicians along with 140,000 other professionals and “lay supporters: that’s the PCRM. But who are they really, and how is what they promote really “responsible medicine”?
Last year, PCRM erected a billboard in Fargo criticizing NDSU and Sanford for the trauma training. It involves live, sedate pigs that are used to practice life-saving measures. It’s reported the pigs feel no pain and are killed quickly after training.
Now, no change in the program prompted more than a dozen supporters of PCRM to gather across from the NDSU campus. They said they tried to actually be on campus, but were told no by the school’s police.
"What do you think it's going to take for your target audience to change their mind?" asked Reporter Bradford Arick.
"Time. The only reason Sanford Health and North Dakota State are still using live pigs is because they always have,” said Dr. Matthew Clayton, a member of PCRM.
The issue with live pigs was why they were there. But who is this group?
"How does someone look at I’ll say an event like this demonstration and not say well you're not actually a physician's organization, you're just an animal rights advocacy group?” asked Arick.
"Oh I don't believe that at all. I think almost, well a great number of the members of the Physicians Committee are physicians. I myself am a licensed physician,” said Dr. Clayton.
On their board until his recent death, the inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, Dr. Henry Heimlich. PCRM promoted using the maneuver as a way to save a drowning victim, something the American Heart Association calls “unnecessary and potentially dangerous”. How is that responsible medicine?
“Uh not drowning. That would not exactly be the right thing for that. And I don't know the right answer to that question so I can't comment on it,” said Dr. Clayton.
Further marring Heimlich’s legacy, his belief in Malariotherapy. It’s deliberately infecting a person with malaria as a cure for things like cancer and HIV, and he carried out human trials in Africa, something the World Health Organization and CDC have both denounced.
“That does not seem like responsible medicine to me,” said Arick.
"No it does not I agree with that. But that's not what's going on now with the PCRM so I can't comment on that part either,” said Dr. Clayton.
Valley News Team checked out Dr. Matthew Clayton and he is trained and board certified. But he seemed to disagree with the message being promoted by the PCRM.
There’s another local connection here too. The President of PCRM is Dr. Neal Barnard, and he says he grew up in Fargo.