The Semmelweis Syndrome… How washing your hands became a thing…

semmelweis_custom-8b5f0f746bf92d785b4a789a8c94c8e986a62dd6-s400-c85Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was a physician.  A gynecologist by trade and was fired as a doctor and had his license taken away for malpractice.  This was, of all things for washing his hands… In the 1840’s-70’s doctors were mostly interested in surgeries, sound familiar to now???  They did not, as a practice wash their hands, but wiped their hands on a dirty towel or their apron or coat.  Imagine, this is the time of many great wars and surgeons were responsible for most of the care of the wounded.  That care consisted of amputation.  A good saw, a couple assistants to hold the poor fellow down while you go at it.  Then cauterised the wound, cover it in hot wax to seal it and hope for the best.  No wonder so many in the American Civil war died of infection.

This doctor, Semmelweis was trying to improve the survive-ability of his patients that had just given birth.  He had tried to go after the lowest hanging fruit, the most obvious and easy things to change.  He changed the way that women gave birth, on their backs instead of on their sides…  He changed the environment, sounds, lighting etc.  With no success.

Then he started to wash his hands.

Some accounts say water and hot sand, some say chlorine bleach solution.  Either way… it worked.  His patient’s mortality dropped significantly.  He was ridiculed for doing something not ‘approved’, or even studied… (Sounds like chiropractic and acupuncture today).  and was send away.  He set up a clinic and mandated that everyone wash their hands.  The mortality rate dropped and people flocked to the clinic where your survival was more likely.

Other doctors took notice.  They came to see what the big deal was and what he was doing that was so ‘revolutionary’ .  Dr. Semmelweis was fired for using non proven and non scientific procedures.  This was just around the time of the germ theory was developing.  No such thing as Penicillin was even thought of yet.  All of that, only 175 years or so back.  Remember, even ‘modern’  Western medicine is barely out of the dark ages.

The next time your medical doctor (or any health care provider) tells you something you are doing for your health is a bunch of ‘hooey’, just remember Dr. Semmelweis.

He died in an asylum at the age of 47… from sepsis (infection) after being beaten there… yay Allopaths!

Do your own homework, get good info, use your common sense, ask around.  There are LOTS of ways to treat things.  In chiropractic history, we had a motto…

‘Anything can cause anything and anything can cure anything…’  (in other words, sometimes you just don’t know…)

 

With health and healing for you…
Dr. Sean

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3 comments
  1. Sumitta said:

    What was interesting is HOW he discovered to wash his hands. It turns out that the physicians who birthed babies had hire infant morality than the midwives. The only thing they did not have in common was that the physicians would spend much of their day in dissection down in the morgue, then come straight up to deliver babies. They were bringing infections of the dead with them. When they washed their hands (germ theory was not universal at that time), the infant morality dropped to that of the midwives.

    • Dr Sean said:

      blech… from morgue to momma…

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