chapter  21
13 Pages

Fire of Iolaus: The role of state countermeasures in causing terrorism and what needs to be done: Andrew Silke


In the nineteenth century, puerperal fever was one of the most feared diseases for women who were planning to deliver a child in a public hospital. Even in the most modern hospitals of the age, as many as one quarter of the patients would die as a result of this disease. Yet what were the root causes of the illness? On one level, child-birth itself was a cause. This, after all, was the reason the mothers were hospitalized and why they were receiving treatment. Yet, in 1847, an Austrian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, made a profound breakthrough. He discovered that while the hospital may be treating these women because of childbirth, vast numbers were dying not because labour itself was inherently so dangerous, but because the manner in which the hospitals treated these women was so misguided. Poor sanitary conditions and misguided medical practices rapidly spread infection and disease among patients. One could not solve the problem of patients dying from puerperal fever without fi rst tackling the major cause of these deaths: the way in which hospitals managed people who came for treatment. When Semmelweis introduced the use of proper disinfectants, the death rate plummeted from nearly a quarter of all women to just one patient in a hundred.