Sunday, February 6, 2011
Medical arrogance - Just thinking here on a Sunday Afternoon
Puerperal fever is now rare in the West due to improved hygiene during delivery, and deaths have been reduced by antibiotics. Dr. Semmelweis was not alone, although he was not aware, Oliver Wendell Holmes published published The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever, Holmes' conclusions were ridiculed by many contemporaries, including Charles Delucena Meigs, a well-known obstetrician, who stated, "Doctors are gentlemen, and gentlemen's hands are clean.". Semmelweis began experimenting with various cleansing agents and, from May 1847, ordered all doctors and students working in the First Division wash their hands in chlorinated lime solution before starting ward work, and later before each vaginal examination. The mortality rate from puerperal fever in the division fell from 18% in May 1847 to less than 3% in June–November of the same year. While his results were extraordinary, he was treated with skepticism and ridicule.
1. Wertz RM, Wertz DC. Lying-in: a history of childbirth in America. New York: New York Free Press, 1977. Original reference is probably Meigs, Charles Delucena (1854). On the Nature, Signs, and Treatment of Childbed Fevers: In a Series of Letters Addressed to the Students of His Class. Original from Harvard University (Digitized Nov 30, 2007), Retrieved September 1, 2008: Blanchard and Lea, Philadelphia. p. 362 pages. http://books.google.com/?id=RigSAAAAYAAJ.:104
2. ^ Raju TN. Ignac Semmelweis and the etiology of fetal and neonatal sepsis. J Perinatol 1999; 19(4): 307-310.