In May 2007, SALF filed suit in Cook County (Illinois) Circuit Court against Baratz, Heimlich, and a Cincinnati blogger named Jason Haap for defamation. The suit alleged they were the TV station's primary sources and included charges of unspecified economic damages resulting from 11 severed relationships, including Homeland Security, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and Miami: "Save A Life had been working with the City of Miami, had a branch in the Miami mayor's office, and had been providing LFSA training in Miami-Dade schools.... As a proximate result of defendant's actions, the City of Miami has terminated its relationship with Save A Life."
"Elementary schoolchildren really shouldn't be trying to do the Heimlich maneuver," said Baratz, who teaches medicine at Boston University. "They just don't have the bodies for it at that age."
Freddie Fernandez, a Miami-Dade fire chief who helped coordinate the program in schools, knew nothing about the controversy when New Times contacted him. He couldn't explain why a flyer sent home to parents said children had been taught to use the Heimlich maneuver on infants. "The Heimlich maneuver is never taught on infants one year and below,'' Fernandez said. "Now, children between one and eight, you can have a modified Heimlich maneuver."
The good news is the whole mess didn't cost local taxpayers anything. The city used $41,164 in grants from the foundation to pay for instructors, according to Vivianne Bohorques, who oversaw the SALF courses as the city's project manager.
True, thousands of local schoolchildren were taught the Heimlich maneuver and probably never got the necessary retraining in the back-slap method.
Just chew your food slowly if you're having a hot dog with one of them.