January 22, 2019

Please Wash Your Hands


Before germs were "discovered" (proof of which was brought by Louis Pasteur between 1860 and 1864), Hungarian ob-gyn at the Vienna general hospital, Ignaz Semmelweis, guessed that the death of his friend, Dr. Jakob Kolletschka, was he was infected by the very doctors who'd tried to heal him.

So in 1847, Dr. Semmelweiss made his staff clean their hands before helping patients to prevent the latter from succumbing to what he called "invisible poison." Turned out this saved numerous lives (the mortality rate in his department dropped from 12% to 2.4%, and again to 1.3% when the order was given to anyone helping with childbirth).
Baron Joseph Lister, pioneer of antiseptic surgery,
idea first developed by Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis

But, as no good deed goes unpunished, Dr. Semmelweiss's colleagues started berating and insulting him, until he was finally fired from the hospital. He did find work again in another hospital in Hungary, but only if he promised not to talk about this whole washing of hands business.

All this despite the obvious proof of his theory. I just don't understand why people have to be so jealous of others' findings, particularly when they're for the good of the people, instead of simply applying these new systems themselves?

In any case, Dr. Semmelweiss didn't give up on his findings, and tried to bring the subject up at the university of Budapest. But he was arrested by the police, taken back to Vienna by his Hungarian colleagues, to be placed in an asylum. Once there, the staff beat him up whenever he mentioned anything about washing hands, and he ended up dying by the unwashed hands of a doctor who, instead of healing his severe wounds, ended up giving him gangrene.


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