Denying Knowledge Without Experience and Observation: The Semmelweis Reflex

It is the case when people do not approve of any information in any way, do not even try to think about its accuracy. The story of the person who gave the name Reflex is mind-blowing.

semmelweis reflex: It is the situation in which people automatically (reflexively) reject information without any consideration, experience or observation. this definition was made by the author robert anton wilson in tribute to semmelweis. Galileo’s claim that “the earth revolves around the sun” was rejected by all people living at that time, especially the church, and he was punished for insisting on this claim.

So who is this semmelweis?

Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865)

Obstetrician working in Vienna.

Back then, the world was unaware of germs, infectious diseases, and the importance of hand washing.

Surgeons operated without washing their hands (surgical gloves had not been invented anyway), a significant proportion of patients died from infection.

In France, the bloodstains on the aprons of surgeons showed his seniority. The dirtier the gown, the more experienced the surgeon.

For this reason, surgeons especially do not wash their gowns. Of course, surgeons couldn’t wash their hands, and surgical infections were ignored because it was said “

” because they were operating in dirty dirty gowns at that time. Because surgical infections were so common and deadly, only simple surgeries could be performed.

Semmelweis realized that mortality rates due to puerperal sepsis (contraceptive fever) were very high in women who gave birth at the clinic where he worked. In the hospital where he worked, there were two delivery rooms, one of which was the 1st room for medical education and the trainee doctors, and the second room for midwifery training. summelweis noticed that in the hall where the trainee doctors entered, the rate of puerperal sepsis was over 30% (that is, one out of every three women who gave birth there died from the infection), this mysterious disease had a normal frequency. gave birth in the other hall.

He made observations, wondering what these interns were doing that caused the deaths of the patients. Trainee doctors were entering the delivery room for obstetrics class after dealing with cadavers in anatomy class. Could there be a connection between this disease and those cadavers? As if all this were not enough, the death of a colleague who had autopsied a patient who died of puerperal sepsis at that time and accidentally cut his own finger during the autopsy, showing the same symptoms, brightened Semmelweis’s horizons.

He thought that the cause of this disease was a creature that was transmitted from person to person, and that creatures too small to be seen with the naked eye could cause it. As a precaution, he placed a solution containing calcium hypochlorite (chlorinated solution) on the door of the delivery room and made it mandatory for those entering to wash their hands.

The result was incredible: within two months, the puerperal sepsis rate had dropped below 1%. It was at that moment that semmelweis expanded his work with great success and published the unique knowledge he had acquired about the symptoms, transmission routes and preventive measures of infectious diseases (year: 1847). In his articles, he recommended that all surgeons wash their hands before starting surgeries.

however, while awaiting recognition and reward, semmelweis suddenly became the target of criticism, verbal taunts, and ridicule. Washing hands was embarrassing for surgeons back then, and semmelweis asking them to do such an embarrassing thing was really out of line. attacks gradually shifted to the axis of racism (semmelweis was Hungarian). Semmelweis, who was also exposed to the accusations of charlatanism, was expelled from the university after a while. The information he suggested was also forgotten. Unable to tell anyone about his troubles, Semmelweis was eventually fired from his profession. summelweis was depressed but still defended his claims. So much so that he was blocking young couples he saw on the streets of Vienna and advising them to “tell the doctor when you are going to have a baby, wash your hands before birth”. Semmelweis was eventually placed in a mental institution. He died in a mental institution in 1865.

After Semmelweis, a surgeon named Lister (Joseph Lister, 1827-1912) claimed the same in 1865, but Lister was a more determined surgeon, no one could mess with him. In addition, at that time, Luis Pasteur made detailed studies about microbes and broke people’s prejudices on this subject. As a result, while Lister made his mark in the history of medicine as the father of antisepsis, Semmelweis was forgotten. Even today most doctors do not know the name semmelweis.

The semmelweis reflex is the rejection of the information claimed by the scientist named semmelweis, based entirely on scientific observations and studies, without detailed research and examination by people living at that time. In short, it is the scientific definition of ignorance.

Today, Lister is mentioned in medical school textbooks as the father of antisepsis as the first person to solve the problem of infection. but this is not true. The father of antisepsis is Semmelweis.

Mehmet Sarıusta

Hi, I'm Mehmet. I am a writer for Expat Guide Turkey and I strive to create the best content for you. To contact me, you can send an e-mail to Happy reading!

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