The docs would go from the autopsy room into a delivery room, didn’t change their clothes; didn’t change their coats; didn’t wash their hands; just went from one table to the other. The physicians had a horrible death rate related to post delivery sepsis of the moms. Same population of moms, midwives were delivering mothers, and their death rate was much less. Semmelweis goes: “Well, why are they having less sepsis, less illness and morbidity,” and made the simple observation that you need to wash your hands between patients. He introduced that idea to his team and said ok, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re just going to wash, just use regular antiseptic solution and wash and his moms started surviving at much higher rates. There was no basis for anyone to believe him, plus he was a pretty colorful character apparently as well. And what he was suggesting, just sounded outrageous even though he did have evidence; he had data.
Kathleen Sazama MD JD