Ignaz Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician in the mid 1800’s. He directed the maternity clinic at the Vienna General Hospital in Austria. Ignaz noticed a disturbing trend. Pregnant Moms would come to the hospital to give birth. They safely delivered their babies. But many would follow their delivery by developing a deadly fever. Many died in what was known as child bed fever.
So the doctor began research and observation. He noticed that with mom’s who died doctors and medical students routinely went from dissecting corpses to examining new mothers. There must be a connection. Through vigorous statistical analysis, Semmelweis figured out where the problem lay. The doctors and students were transferring disease from the corpses to the new women. He introduced rigorous hand washing rules in the maternity ward. Deaths drastically lessened and he became known as the savior of the mothers.
We all know how important it is to wash our hands. But this was not the common practice in those days. Doctors and medical students came from touching a diseased corpse to touching a new mother. This common practice needed correction. Semmelweis helped so many yet ended up dying from another common practice that needed correction. He was committed to an insane asylum when he started to exhibit what was possibly the early onset of Alzheimer’s. But the staff didn’t know about such things. They thought he was being defiant and uncooperative. So they beat him when he wouldn’t obey them and died of his injuries. Common Practices sometimes need correction.