28 jun. 2011

The doctor of the mothers

Many countries celebrate mother’s day in different dates. I would like to remember a scientist who is deeply linked to the mother’s well-being. The Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis.


Until the end of the XIX century, many women died when giving birth. These deaths were extremely common due to an illness known as ‘puerperal fever’, a fever that the new mothers presented after the childbirth and took them directly to the death.

In that time, the childbirths were assisted by doctors or matrons. In the case of the matrons, Semmelweis observed that deaths were much less frequent. He suspected a difference between doctors and matrons assistance.

But which one?

After analyzing carefully the different cases, Dr. Semmelweis proposed that puerperal fever and the corresponding death could be avoided by hygienic procedures to the childbirth… in few words: washing doctor and nurses’ hands and cleaning the medical instruments!
The doctors of that time did not believed in him. The history of the medicine is full with doctors who gave their life for the well-being of the humanity. Apparently Semmelweis was not an exception. The intents of being listened were useless and the deaths continued happening in the hospitals of Hungary and the rest of the world. Although Semmelweis ideas seemed to be effective, the doctors of that time made fun of him.

Due to an accident, possibly self-done, he demonstrated the wrong procedures of that time to treat blood infections. He actually died at 47 years due to a blood infection similar to that of the patients with puerperal fever.

Years later, the discoveries of Pasteur and the new hygienic procedures of Lister would agree with the Hungarian doctor ideas. For all of this, Semmelweis is known as the doctor of the mothers.

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