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Ignaz Semmelweis Essay

1291 words - 6 pages

*Great cover page!

How the Past Changed the Future
Cassandra Click
PU120-2 Unit-9 Final
January 8, 2014

Ignaz Semmelweis (also known as “savior of mothers” and “father of infection control”) was born in Budapest on July 1, 1818. Semmelweis was educated at the universities of Pest and Vienna and in 1844 received his doctor’s degree. Following this Semmelweis became an assistant at an obstetric clinic in Vienna. This is where Semmelweis used his epidemiologic knowledge to observe, investigate, record and remedy an infectious disease that was occurring with childbirth called puerperal fever or better known as (child-bed fever). Thus his work encompassed the core ...view middle of the document...

The mortality rate first dropped to 18.3% in April 1847 and by June were down to 2.2%, July 1.2% and in August an amazing 1.9% (, n.d.). By the mid 1850’s Semmelweis began documenting his findings and hypothesis in his personal journals (Cork, Maxwell, &Yeo, 2011).
The Obstacles and Barriers
In the beginning many did not accept Semmelweis’ conclusions including his superior, Professor Klein. Klein thought that the mortality rate was due to the hospital’s new ventilation system (Best & Neuhauser, 2004). Also Semmelweis lacked scientific evidence that not washing one’s hands could be the sole cause of spreading the contamination. This was too extreme of a theory at the time and Semmelweis faced plenty of skepticism and his theory was ignored and even ridiculed. It did not help that Semmelweis lacked the skills to communicate and basically began telling other physicians that they were irresponsible and that they were murders. Also other doctors were not willing to accept the fact that their hands could be the cause of so many deaths. Not to mention it was thought that washing of the hands before treating each patient was too time consuming and that remodeling hospitals to allow for sinks with running water in each of them was preposterous.
In the End
Semmelweis was encouraged by friends to publish his treatise, but would not do so until 13 years later in 1861. Even in his writings he continued to attack his critics. It is suggested that by the time Semmelweis wrote his treatise he was already in the early stages of mental illness (Loudon, 2013). In 1865 “the savior of mothers” was committed to a mental hospital where he died. It is still debatable on how (Zoltan, n.d.). It was not until decades after his death when the “germ theory” of disease was developed by Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister and others with a scientific explanation did Semmelweis’ work receive acceptance.
Today’s Public Health
Semmelweis paved the road for today’s antiseptic procedures used in hospitals. To think something so simple as washing one’s hands to prevent the spread of disease was once so controversial that it drove a man to insanity. Almost anywhere you look today you can find a bottle of hand sanitizer and if you go to see a physician you will notice the basins with which the physician uses to wash his/her hands before treating you.
However, worldwide, sepsis is still the cause of death in about 1400 people each day and most of the sepsis is from infection acquired while in the hospital. This is called nosocomial infection. Nosocomial infections occur in 2 million patients per year in the United States causing 90,000 deaths (Best & Neuhauser, 2004).
Hand washing to today has gone high tech to ensure that doctors and nurses keep their hands clean. Beepers, buzzers, lights and tracking systems are...

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