Episode 11

Dirty Doctors


February 9th, 2019

1 hr 13 mins 56 secs

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About this Episode

It may be hard to understand with hindsight, but for most of human history if we couldn't see something with our eyes it didn't exist. In the early 1840's, in Vienna, this worldview was put to the test when people began to notice that mortality rates during deliveries with doctors were significantly higher than with midwives in the same hospital.

One doctor at this hospital, Ignaz Semmelweis, observed that the infection which had killed one of his friends after an injury was similar to the infection that most women suffered from that died as a result of childbirth in the doctor's ward. He surmised that the only way to eliminate the unseen contaminate was to remove the smell that accompanied working on dead bodies. To achieve this he required all doctors to begin washing their hands in a chlorine solution after handling dead bodies.

Meanwhile, in other parts of Europe, Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister were also contributing to their own discoveries in the microscopic world of germs which would revolutionize the field of medicine. This leads to a discussion on the nature of discoveries and whether or not we should expect true revelations in fields anymore or if all advancement is incremental.

As with all great discoveries we also talk about the detractors. In this case, the biggest criminal is our own human faults. Why is it that despite over 100 years of research on the matter it is still so hard to get doctors to wash their hands?

As always, no episode of Smog on the Nog would be complete without a dose of meandering conversation about the scale of time, was Thanos wrong, and how many Scientologists know about Xenu.

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