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Researchers May Not Conduct Controversial Drowning Study On Dogs

February 20, 1986

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Two researchers who had outlined an experiment involving the near-drowning of 22 dogs say the research may not be needed after all.

University of Florida doctors Richard Melker and Jerome Modell’s proposed animal research to test the usefulness of the Heimlich maneuver for drowning victims raised protests from animal rights activists who called the project inhumane and unnecessary.

The researchers now have put the experiments on hold because it appears unlikely that the Heimlich maneuver will be approved by medical groups as a treatment for drowning victims, the university announced at a news conference Wednesday.

Dr. Henry Heimlich proposed to the American Heart Association last summer that his maneuver, which involves an abdominal thrust to clear the windpipe of a choking person, be used as the first step in treating drowning victims.

″Doctors Melker and Modell feel confident they may not need to proceed with the testing because they don’t think the Heimlich manuever will be approved,″ Al Alsobrook, vice president for university relations, said at the news conference.

The heart association, the American Red Cross and the American Medical Association put out the bible on emergency medical techniques. If those groups refuse to endorse the Heimlich maneuver for drowning victims, the animal studies won’t be needed, the reseachers said in a statement.

Modell and Melker said they believed that using the Heimlich maneuver as a first step to aid a drowning victim may be dangerous, and had proposed the experiment to show its ineffectiveness.

They two believe it may increase the time that a drowning victim’s brain may be denied oxygen and that the maneuver may force up stomach fluids that could be inhaled by the victim.

The upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association also is expected to have an article backing the researchers’ concerns about the Heimlich maneuver, Alsobrook said.

″They have adopted a wait-and-see attitude,″ Alsobrook said of the researchers.

Alsobrook said the experiments created a public-relations nightmare for the university, but he said the furor had united the scientific community behind Melker and Modell.

On Wednesday, Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold ordered the city pound to stop giving animals to the University of Florida for experiments until the controversy over the research is resolved.

The pound sent about 900 dogs and cats to the university last year for use in laboratory experiments. Animals unclaimed by owners and not sent to the school are destroyed after three to five days.

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