The doctor who made his students wash up

“The doctor who made his students wash up.”

Life Application

In the 18th century, a doctor in Vienna discovered a tragedy in the health care system know as the childbed fever, also referred to as puerperal. The childbed fever is a bacterial infection caused by the bacteria streptococcus that affects the uterus after childbearing women give birth. The infection was prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries, causing the deaths of 6 to 9 women among every 100 deliveries. The disease contributed to the sufferings and deaths of many women leading to the highest maternal mortality ever witnessed. The doctors and nurses investigated to identify the causes of the deaths as all the doctors were implementing a similar medical protocol, but the infection was still prevailing.

In reference to indications of life application, childbed fever became a debated topic with significant inquiries on why many women were dying in hospitals after giving birth. Due to the increased number of deaths in hospitals, many women opted to give birth at home, and the death rates reduced. The reduction of mortality after women gave birth at home clearly stated that hospitals were linked to the cause of women dying after hospital births. Doctors carried out research and identified the deaths as a contagious epidemic. The doctors discovered that the deaths were are a result of germs being spread for one person to the other and especially among doctors who helped women in delivering. To curb the spread of the childbed fever, the doctors introduced hygienic measures and sterilization of all tools used in child delivery. The measures were put into practice in all hospitals, and the death cases reduced drastically. Although childbed fever is identified in the 21st century, the infection is detected early and treated immediately with antibiotics hence no diverse effects.

According to New York Times article “The doctor who made his student wash up”, doctor Ignaz Semmelweis was an obstetrician based in Hungary and collected data intending to identify why there was a high mortality rate of women after birth. The doctor carried out a comparison between maternity clinics that’s were served by doctors together with medical students and clinics served by midwives. The doctor discovered that the death rates of women in hospitals served by doctors and medical students were five times higher than in the clinics served by midwives. The doctor paid attention to the hospitals by examing the behavior and procedure of child delivery in hospitals. Semmelweis discovered that those doctors who attended to childbearing women often worked in the hospital autopsy room. He also found that the doctors left the autopsy room and went directly to help women deliver, and in turn, the women served by those doctors would die after a few days.  Doctor Semmelweis, together with his colleagues, discovered a connection between the morbid Group A hemolytic streptococcus bacteria and the maternal deaths (Bozzone, & Green, 2014).

The hemolytic streptococcus is a pathogen that causes an average of 11,500 cases related to invasive diseases and cumulatively leads to over 10 million cases related to non-invasive diseases annually in the USA. From the observations and discoveries made by Dr. Semmelweis, doctors used that knowledge and formed a habit of thoroughly washing and disinfecting their hands together with arms before and after any surgery. Dr. Semmelweis introduced antisepsis and ensured that it was implemented in the medical practice to prevent the spread of bacterias. Although women who visited the midwives were not infected with the childbed fever, they were exposed to other medical conditions that doctors are more aware of compared to midwives. After initiating the process of washing hands and sterilization, there were few to no cases of childbed fever in the hospitals thus the doctors encouraged women to visit the hospitals to give birth and receive extensive medical care.

The health care systems still do register several infections among patients after major and minor medical procedures. Advancement in the medical sectors has enhanced the treatment of the diseases, which is timely and efficient, contributing to quick recovery and healing of the patients compared to past experiences where patients succumbed to infections. Health facilities have improved their hygiene practice to minimize the spread of bacteria in the facilities and the number of infections. Although the hygienic levels are up to standard, cases of infections are identified but are very rare and treatable. Advancement of technology in the medical sector has provided various ways of preventing the spread of infections and treatment options such as amputation.  Amputation is a treatment procedure that entails the removal of a limb to prevent the spread of an infection to the rest of the body. Medical practitioners insist on creating a habit among ourselves of regularly washing our hands advisably with liquid soap to kills all germs. Also, one should avoid touching his or her face, nose, and eyes to prevent the transfer of any bacteria to membranes that introduce infections to the body. One should seek medical assistance from a qualified physician incase of an infection. The physicians help in identifying the type of infection and offer treatment that cures the infection and also stops the spread of the disease.




Bozzone, D. M., & Green, D. S. (2014). Biology for the informed citizen. Oxford University Press.

Markel, H. (n.d.). The Doctor Who Made His Students Wash Up. Retrieved May 29, 2020, from

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