Woman Chokes to Death at Restaurant After Eating Octopus

A woman choked to death while eating lunch at a bar in southeastern Spain on Sunday.

The 63-year-old, whose name has not been released, was dining with a relative in Plaza de la Iglesia in Santomera, Murcia.

According to local reports, she choked on a piece of octopus that had become lodged in her airway.

"She was eating octopus, when suddenly she put her hands to her throat," one witness told local newspaper La Verdad. "She couldn't breathe or cough."

Diners telephoned emergency services and, as they waited for medical workers to arrive, the woman's relative reportedly attempted the Heimlich maneuver—an anti-choking technique that has likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives since its inception in 1974.

Members of staff and fellow patrons of the bar also performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to no avail.

Paramedics tried to revive her on their arrival, but were unable to save her life.

More than 5,000 people died from choking in the U.S. in 2019, according to market research company Statista, while the National Safety Council reports that choking is the fourth biggest cause of accidental death in the country.

Acting quickly is key when trying to prevent choking.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, headquartered in Baltimore, recommends four key ways to help prevent choking in adults. They are:

  • Cut food into small pieces
  • Chew food slowly and thoroughly, especially if wearing dentures
  • Avoid laughing and talking while chewing and swallowing
  • Avoid excessive intake of alcohol before and during meals

To perform the Heimlich maneuver on somebody who is choking, you first need to stand behind them and wrap your arms around their abdomen, just below their diaphragm.

You then need to repeatedly thrust your hands inwards and upwards, to dislodge the object that's blocking their airway.

Mayo Clinic recommends performing "between six and 10" thrusts, while the American Red Cross recommends alternating between five thrusts and five blows delivered with the heel of your hand, between the person's shoulder blades.

For pregnant women, it is recommended that you use a higher grip, wrapping your arms around the base of the breastbone.

The procedure was conceived by Henry Heimlich, who died aged 96 in 2016.

He said that he came up with it in response to the high rate of deaths from people choking in restaurants.

He initially tested the method on anesthetized lab dogs, attaching string to chunks of meat in case it didn't work.

However, it took more than a decade for the Heimlich maneuver to be recognized as the primary anti-choking technique.

A man performing the Heimlich maneuver
The Heimlich maneuver was conceived in 1974, in response to the frequency at which diners would choke on their food at restaurants. Pixel_away/iStock