RE: virus: Being uncomfortable isn't always bad

carlw (
Fri, 5 Feb 1999 05:14:41 -0600

Actually it took until Ignaz Semmelweis published "The Etiology, Concept, and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever" in 1859-61 in German for anyone to really recognize the problem. And it was far from widely acknowledged even after that. Semmelweis recognized that the 10% mortality figures of "childbed fever" (properly called puerperal infection) were caused by medical personnel not washing adequately after dissecting corpses before doing vaginal examinations of women in labor. After he forced his students (in one ward of the hospital) to disinfect themselves, the mortality rate in that ward immediately dropped to below 3%. However, despite Semmelweis proving his theory with a masterly piece of research according to strictly applied scientific methods (with control groups), his views were strongly rejected by the senior physicians who believed the disease was due to all sorts of other causes. Semmelweis became very passionate on the subject as he was completely certain that the doctors were actually killing the patients, and for his pains was committed to a Viennese insane asylum, where he died at age 42, probably from beatings administered by the asylum guards.

It was only after his death that physicians began to work on developing aseptic conditions, and as late as 1910, it was not unknown (in the United States) for senior surgeouns to be proud of their blood smattered smocks!

For an example of medicine and religion run mad:

Unfortunately, Semmelweis's theories were not received with great enthusiasm by many of his esteemed colleagues. There was a large amount of resistance within the medical profession to reduce pain and suffering during childbirth as the pain was thought to be a manifestation of the mysterious will of God. Women's suffering in childbirth was an integral part of the prevailing doctrine of Christianity. In Genesis 3:17 God condemns Eve in saying, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children". Puerperal fever was explained by many physicians and theologians as the manifestation of God's wish to punish women in the act of childbirth. In response to Holmes' assertions that Puerperal fever was spread by contagion Dr. Charles Meigs, a leading American obstetrician of the time, wrote the following:


-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Richard Brodie
Sent: Friday, February 05, 1999 3:45 AM
Subject: RE: virus: Being uncomfortable isn't always bad

You must be joking.

The efficacy of sterilization has been known since Pasteur.

My father was a psychologist.

Richard Brodie Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" Free newsletter! Visit Meme Central at

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Tim Rhodes
Sent: Friday, February 5, 1999 12:10 AM
Subject: Re: virus: Being uncomfortable isn't always bad

Richard wrote:

>Amazing that people continue to put their faith in talk therapy when, after
>so many years, no study has shown it to be a reliably effective treatment
>for anything.

Where you aware that there has never been a study conducted to prove or disprove whether the ritual of a surgeon scrubbing up for five minutes per hand before gloving-up has any effect on the infection rates of her patient's in a modern hospital setting?

Boy, those doctors sure are dumb!

-Prof. Tim