Although the Heimlich maneuver isn't patented, medical procedures can be protected under patent law -- over 100 of these medical process patents are issued every month. And yes, patent owners can sue when their procedures are used without authorization. (FYI Dept.: A veterinarian won a case last year over his patented process for declawing a cat.) There is one big limitation on these patents. Under a 1996 federal law, the patent owner can't sue a doctor for infringing a medical process patent. In other words, a surgeon can use a patented process in the operating room without asking for permission beforehand. Still, that hasn't stopped lawsuits.
Anyway, thanks to Dr. H., many people -- for example, Cher, former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Elizabeth Taylor, Goldie Hawn, and Carrie Fisher -- are alive today. And since there is no copyright or patent on the method -- though there is a trademark* -- , let's all review it for our own selves. Here's the setup: A choking victim can't speak or breathe and needs your help immediately. Follow these steps*
- From behind, wrap your arms around the victim's waist
- Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against the victim's upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel.
- Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into their upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Do not squeeze the ribcage; confine the force of the thrust to your hands
*Previously I suggested that you avoid backslapping in favor of the HM, but a tip of the hat to Mexican Radio (see comments below) who points out that the HM has been demoted in favor of the back slap. (See Heimlich's response to back slaps, here.) Although there is no copyright or patent on the procedure, MR points out that the Dr. does have a trademark on the term "Heimlich Maneuver" -- which may explain why the American Red Cross now simply refers to the procedure as "abdominal thrusts."