If you think the medical profession welcomes innovation, think again:

Answer by Monish Appusamy:

Introduction of Hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics

In the 1840s, hospitals were dangerous places. Women even preferred to give birth in the streets rather going to the hospitals.

Ignaz Semmelweis was appointed as assistant in one of two Obstetrical Clinic at Vienna General Hospital on July 1, 1846. The First Obstetrical Clinic where Semmelweis was appointed had a maternal mortality rate due to puerperal fever of about 10%, which means nearly 100 women will die for every 1000 women admitted. But there was some good news: at the Second Clinic, the number was just 4%. The two clinics admitted on alternate days, but women begged to be admitted to the Second Clinic, due to the bad reputation of the First Clinic. Semmelweis described desperate women begging on their knees not to be admitted to the First Clinic.

Semmelweis was severely troubled that his First Clinic had a much higher mortality rate due to puerperal fever than the Second Clinic. He began desperately searching for some kind of explanation for the difference. He excluded "overcrowding" as a cause, since the Second Clinic was always more crowded and yet the mortality was lower. He eliminated climate as a cause because the climate was the same. Then, in 1847, Semmelweis’s friend Jakob Kolletschka was performing an autopsy when a student accidentally poked him with a scalpel. It was a minor injury, but Kolletschka got terribly sick and ultimately passed away, with symptoms rather like the what the mothers had. Which got Semmelweis wondering: was some “deathly material” on the corpses responsible for the deaths?

To test this, he asked doctors of first clinic to wash their hands with chlorinated lime (which he found best removed the stink of death) before handling the pregnant women. The results were shocking:

In April 1847, the mortality rate was 18.3%. Semmelweis instituted handwashing in mid-May and by June the mortality rate had crashed to 2.2%. The next month it was even less and later that year it reached zero — for the first time ever.

But the sad part is, you’d think doctors would be thrilled by this incredible discovery. Instead, Semmelweis was ridiculed and attacked. He was fired from the hospital and forced out of Vienna. Only belatedly did his observational evidence gain wide acceptance; more than twenty years later.

This coincidental finding made by Semmelweis had saved and is currently saving millions of life.

Ignaz Semmelweis

(P.S – I obtained this useful information from one of Aaron swartz blogs. He is one of the genius, I always inspire from)

What are some great examples of coincidence?


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