Where’s the research?

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweiswas a Hungarian physician of German extraction. He discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be drastically cut by use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics. Puerperal fever or childbed feveris a condition that results from an infection of the female reproductive organs, contracted during or following childbirth or miscarriage. Historically, puerperal fever was a devastating disease. It affected women within the first three days after childbirth and progressed rapidly, causing acute symptoms of severe abdominal pain, fever and debility. If puerperal fever is left untreated it can often be fatal. Puerperal fever was common in the mid-19th century hospitals and often fatal with mortality at 10%-35%. Semmelweis was the early pioneer of antiseptic procedures that are still used in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. He proposed the practice of washing with chlorinated lime solutions in 1847 while working in Vienna General Hospital’s first obstetrical clinic. The doctor’s wards had three times the mortality rate than the midwives’ wards. He published a book of his findings in Etiology Concept and Prophylaxis of Childhood Fever. Despite various publications of results where hand washing reduced the mortality rate to below 1%, Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected resoundingly by the medical community. Doctors’ were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands. Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings and the medical community wanted research on his findings. They felt that his findings were just anecdotal and had no place in the medical community. Semmelweis was attacked so badly by the medical community that it took its toll on his health and mental well-being. In 1865, Semmelweis was committed to an asylum, where he died at age 47 after being beaten by the guards, only 14 days after he was committed. Only years after his death, his antiseptic procedures gained widespread acceptance. Now the history books have described him as the savior of mothers.