Truth, Data and the Delivery Room: A Freakonomics Report

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A few decades before doctors understood basic germ theory, a curious process played out in 19th-century Austria. At the time, doctors were trying to find the cause of a deadly fever striking many mothers and newborn infants in the delivery room. Among the possible causes they considered were tight corsets and women upset by the presence of men in the room. The actual cause was eventually uncovered by the relentless and data-driven work of Ignaz Semmelweis, a doctor whose work ulimately saved uncountable lives.

Dr. Semmelweis' line of reasoning is now highlighted by Stephen Dubner, co-author of the "Freakonomics" book and blog. The new book, "SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance," comes out next month.

Contributors:

Stephen J. Dubner

Comments [3]

roter

A few decades before doctors understood basic germ theory, <a href="http://www.onlymessages.com/holi-quotes.html">Holi quotes</a> a curious process played out in 19th-century Austria. At the time, doctors were trying to find the cause of a deadly <a href="http://www.onlymessages.com/holi-quotes.html">holi messages</a> fever striking many mothers and newborn infants in the delivery room.

Mar. 10 2014 03:32 AM
Will Falconer, DVM from Austin TX

It's beyond me how this is the only take away of this great story, and anyone wanting more has to dig. The take away for most of us in alternative health was that Semmelweis discovered it was the physician's not washing up after cadaver work and before delivery of the child! Once they started, the death rate plummeted. But here's the kicker: they didn't stick with it, because they didn't believe it could be possible, so they dropped the hand washing and the rate went right back up!!

Apr. 14 2010 02:58 PM
szlevi from Brooklyn, NY

It's either the book this bad/poorly researched or the editor was lousier than an intern - Ignac Semmelweis was Hungarian and the country was called Austro-Hungarian Monarchy or Empire, after the two states (Kingdom of Hungary was the bigger) it was stitched together from (it only became Austria after losing the first World War.)

Feb. 16 2010 02:49 AM

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