[Institutional iatrogeny and maternal death: Semmelweis and puerperal fever]

[Article in Spanish]
  • PMID: 24100831

Free article


Puerperal fever is a disease that becomes epidemic in the eighteenth century as a result of two factors: the urban working masses generated by the industrial revolution and the progressive hegemonization and medicalization of birth care in large public hospitals.


Institutionalized maternal death reached figures above 30%,
while in the case of birth care provided by midwives, it was than 2%.


Semmelweis, an Hungarian physician, sustained that physicians contaminated women in labor due to insufficient hygiene after performing necropsies [performing autopsies on dead cadavers] and established prophylactic measures [hand washing, specifically before and after seeing each patient, and after handling a cadaver] in the Vienna Hospital that reduced mortality dramatically. However, his ideas were rejected because they affected the institutionalization process of medicine, based on altruism and honor, which would make it impossible to cause harm to patients. He was forced to leave Vienna Hospital and he continued his struggle in Budapest, but the rejection and disagreement of his peers with his doctrine affected his mental health. He died in an asylum [after having been beaten severely by a his tormentors, aka doctors, and probably died due to infections, the very thing he was trying to prove], a few years before Pasteur and Koch proved the existence of the bacteria that caused diseases such as puerperal fever.


The above article gives as good and as thorough a summary as I could find on this subject, and it is produced on our government website






Table Of Iatrogenic Deaths In The United States

(Deaths induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures)

Condition Deaths Cost
Billion $s
Adverse Drug Reactions 106,000 12 Lazarou (1) Suh (49)
Medical error 98,000 2 IOM (6)
Bedsores 115,000 55 Xakellis (7) Barczak (8)
Infection 88,000 5 Weinstein (9) MMWR (10)
Malnutrition 108,800 Nurses Coalition (11)
Outpatients 199,000 77 Starfield (12) Weingart (1, 12)
Unnecessary Procedures 37,136 122 HCUP(3, 13)
Surgery-Related 32,000 9 AHRQ(8,5)
TOTAL 783,936 282

Notice: These iatrogenic deaths are missing one of the most heinous statistics, the death of the unborn at the hands of the abortionist, and at the hands of the pharmacist. 70 million deaths recorded in clinics, since abortion was legalized, but possibly million or billions more done by pharmaceuticals killing the baby right after conception.



The Bottom Line

Yes. The numerical values (numbers) can be gathered and interpreted differently, but what matters is that we see the big picture, and get the general idea, that death is happening at an alarming rate, due to practices that need to be assessed seriously, and not just causally. We can no longer afford to sweep the data under the table, then we should deserve to get exactly what we are getting, and become another casualty statistic on the death rate list.