What Can We Learn from the Tragic Story of Dr. Semmelweis?

Numerous parents have reported that a child of theirs experienced digestive disturbance and a regression in behavior following the MMR vaccine. This observation made by parents has been discarded because “correlation is not causation”. Yet consistent observations of loving parents should give the medical field pause and a reason to do deeper study.

In 1846 Ignaz Semmelweis was an intern at Vienna General Hospital. He noticed that the death rate of women from childbirth fever was 10 times greater if they were under the care of a doctor, instead of a midwife. The doctors had a 15% mortality rate compared to the midwives’ 1.5% mortality rate. [DeLee p. 382] The death from childbirth fever seemed to correlate with the type of practitioner.

Dr. Semmelweis eventually became the obstetrician in charge of all the autopsies done on women who has succumbed to childbirth fever at Vienna General Hospital. He saw a connection between doctors performing autopsies in the morning and then managing the care of women in labor. The doctors and medical students performed internal exams on laboring women with the same hands that had dissected a body for an autopsy.

Dr. Semmelweis wrote letters and gave lectures on the importance of hand washing. This was taking place before bacteria were discovered, before germ theory was understood. He knew there was a connection between hands that had touched dead bodies and the development of childbirth fever (also known as puerperal fever). But few believed him. In fact he was ridiculed and scorned by many in the medical profession. Women continued to die.

According to an account in Sherwin Nuland’s book, The Doctor’s Plague, young women coming to Vienna General Hospital were aware of the mortality of women in labor whose care was directed by doctors. They begged to have midwife care. They saw a correlation. They knew they had a better chance for surviving childbirth with the midwives.

In the book, Genius Belabored: Childbirth Fever and the Tragic Life of Ignaz Semmelweis, Theodore Obenchain writes: It seems incredible that so many seemingly intelligent people of medicine could have been so grievously wrong for so many decades.

Ever since the MMR vaccine became part of the immunization schedule in 1979, parents have observed the side effects of the MMR vaccine. Not every child, but enough children to raise a red flag. (see my story)  

The observations by the parents are not off the wall. In fact the studies done on 834 children leading up to the licensing of the MMR vaccine showed gastrointestinal symptoms in a significant percentage of the children. But these symptoms were only followed for 42 days, despite some children continuing to have symptoms.

When parents brought their observations to Dr. Andrew Wakefield, he felt that further study was  needed. See the video of Dr. Wakefield (and the argument against him) that took place on Australian 60 Minutes. Click here.

The CDC did do a study with the purpose of proving that there was no link between the MMR and autism. Whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson, who participated in the study states that pertinent data was destroyed.

In the past five years research on the microbiome has led to discovery of a connection between the gut and the immune system. What impact does the MMR have on the gut (gastro-intestines)? Is there a connection to the regressive behavior that some children experience?

It scares me when I consider the number of children that have chronic illnesses, the number of children on the autism spectrum. Parents will continue to pursue answers. The government and the medical field must look deeper at the concerns parents are raising.

DeLee, Joseph B. M.D., Obstetrics for Nurses, Philadelphia; W.B. Saunders Co. 1927

Nuland, Sherwin B. M.D., The Doctor’s Plague: Germs, Childbirth Fever and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis

Obenchain, Theodore M.D., Genius Belabored: Childbirth Fever and the Tragic Life of Ignaz Semmelweis, Tuscaloosa; The University of Alabama Press, 2016

Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service, Food and Drug Administration. Reference Nos 76-316, 77-303, 77-304

By Carol

Carol is a follower of Jesus and a wife, mom & grandma. She worked for many years as a childbirth nurse and prenatal educator. She recently retired from clinical work. She has written articles for nursing journals and devotionals. Her novel, Aliisa's Letter, was published in 2010 and she is currently working on another project.