The Semmelweis Effect
I was speaking with a fellow Fluoroquinolone (FQ) sufferer the other day when the idea for this article was born. We were discussing the frustration that every FQ sufferer encounters when trying to get a doctor to listen to us, to believe in the credibility of our claims, and to treat us like we actually know what we are talking about. Yes, I know, I have written about this very subject before in previous articles like “Falling into a Hole” and “Connecting the Dots”, but I believe that this is a subject that will continue to need discussion until we get the attention of the medical community.
Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician who discovered by 1847 that the incidence of disease could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection or washing. Semmelweis discovered that a common sickness that was prevalent in mid-19th-century hospitals and often fatal, with mortality rate of 10%–35%, could be prevented by simple hand washing. As a matter of fact Semmelweis proved and published in various publications the results where hand-washing reduced the mortality rate below 1%. Semmelweis discovered this well before Luis Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory.
So, since Semmelweis was a physician and discovered something that was obvious, easily proven, and could clearly save lives, his ideas were welcomed among the medical establishment of the day, right? Wrong. Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time. Semmelweis’s main finding, that all instances of a certain disease could be traced back to only one single cause: lack of cleanliness, was simply unacceptable to his colleagues. His findings also ran against the conventional wisdom of the day and contrary to all established medical understanding that diseases spread by other mechanisms. As a result, his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some fellow doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands; they felt that their social status as gentlemen was inconsistent with the idea that their hands could be unclean. Specifically, Semmelweis’s claims were thought to lack scientific basis, since he could offer no acceptable explanation for his findings. Not until decades later, when the germ theory of disease was developed by Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, and others, did Semmelweis’s discoveries prove to be totally correct. Semmelweis is now recognized as a pioneer of antiseptic policy
All patients, especially those with a chronic medical condition, have trouble from time to time getting their doctor to listen to them. Mind you, this is from patients who have known medical maladies. Now couple this with malady that the medical establishment is woefully ignorant about, or denies exists, and you have what the typical FQ victim suffers from. They suffer from, what I call, the “Semmelweis effect.”
The Semmelweis effect takes place when a credible, articulate, intelligence patient presents a plausible mechanism for their medical problem, in the absence of any irrefutable diagnosis, and is dismissed by the medical establishment. All FQ victims have either experienced the Semmelweis effect themselves or have known another sufferer that has experienced it. It is common place, especially at the facilities such as Mayo clinic where opened mindedness for medical research is suppose to be a hallmark. I have personally spoke to several FQ sufferers, who gone to the Mayo clinic, whose motto “The needs of the patient comes first”, only to have their theory on FQ toxicity rejected; Despite the fact that Mayo clinic cannot come up with any definitive diagnosis on their own.
So there we have it, just like Ignaz Semmelwies, our pleas to look at the evidence are basically ignored and dismissed by the medical community, while decent people, undeserving their fate, suffer. So the next time a doctor looks at you, like you have three heads, ask him “Do you know who Ignaz Semmelwies was?”