Monday, November 06, 2006

An example of why I'm a fan of the scientific method

In the above referenced article (leave me a comment if the link is dead), the story of Dr. Semmelweis is shared.

In Europe at that time, mortality rates in maternity hospitals ranged as high as 25 to 30 percent...his superiors...felt that the high mortality rates were normal and non-preventable...Semmelweis ordered all of the medical students to wash their hands after performing autopsies and before examining living women. This was considered by the students to be unnecessary and burdensome, but they complied. As a result, the mortality rate plummeted to 1.27 percent. Yet Semmelweis lost his job for being a troublemaker.
Another case of people believing what they want to believe regardless of the evidence. Fortunately the facts won out over time. Handwashing is an essential part of medical care today, and Semmelweis is seen as a hero. His tragic death is yet another reason I champion science and deplore superstition.

Semmelweis's appeal to reason gradually resulted in his becoming discouraged, disillusioned, and depressed. He died in a mental hospital at only 47 years of age -- of a wound infection.
Opinion is interesting; fact is useful.