A story from Mary Miller…
This is a great true story that really shows how the “powers that be” refuse to change the status quo no matter what the facts are. As Gandhi said ” First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, THEN you win.” Enjoy the Truth….
THE SEMMELWEIS EFFECT
In the mid-eighteen hundreds a man named Ignaz Semmelweis worked as the head doctor on a unit in a hospital where women came to deliver their babies. The story goes that there were two clinics in the hospital. The first clinic was for women who had money to pay for services. So they received services from the highly trained medical doctors. The second clinic was open to women with limited finances. They received services from midwives, considered then to be less than the doctors, only for the poor.
For some unknown reason, 10% to 11% of babies born in the first clinic serviced by the medical doctors died from infections (puerperal fever) right after birth while in the second clinic serviced by the midwives the death rate was more like 2% to 4%. Word of this death rate became known in the community. Some of the women who were supposed to go to the first clinic serviced by the doctors gave birth to their babies on the street. They pretended to be on the way to the first clinic to give birth. But they realized they had a better chance of having a healthy baby by just giving birth in the street.
Dr Semmelweis became very aware of these death rates but like other people, could not figure out what was going on. Then one day, a good friend and fellow-physician died right after being accidently poked with a scalpel during an autopsy. Semmelweis realized that his friend’s post mortem pathology showed that he had the same puerperal fever as the babies who were dying in the first clinic. And he concluded quite accurately that the physicians were not washing their hands after performing autopsies. They were just moving on to delivering babies with all the infectious materials on their hands and implements.
Semmelweis found a solution that would clean the physicians’ hands, making it possible to deliver babies without passing on infections. He had the doctors on his unit use this solution and the death rate in the first clinic serviced by physicians dropped to equal the death rate of the midwife serviced unit.
Now surely one would think this would be a time of great celebration, but instead Semmelweis was met with great resistance. He ultimately lost his job, apparently for political reasons. He tried to tell physicians about what he knew and became perceived as a madman, even though all the statistical figures were in his favor. He ultimately died after being deemed insane for his efforts.
Long after Semmelweis died and his work became known as undeniably accurate, the society recognized him in something they called the Semmelwieis Reflex or the Semmelweis Effect. This concept referred to the tendency of people to reject any new information regardless of proof that might contradict established norms and beliefs. And it also helps to explain why so many pathways of real help so often find resistance.