• Institutional iatrogeny and maternal death: semmelweis and puerperal fever Historia de la Salud Pública

    Salaverry García, Oswaldo

    Abstract in Spanish:

    La fiebre puerperal es una enfermedad que asume carácter epidémico en el siglo XVIII como consecuencia de dos factores: las masas trabajadoras urbanas generadas por la revolución industrial, y la progresiva hegemonización y medicalización de la atención del parto en grandes hospitales públicos. La mortalidad materna institucionalizada alcanza cifras superiores al 30%, en tanto con la atención por parteras es menor al 2%. Semmelweis, médico húngaro, postula que los médicos contaminaban a las parturientas por insuficiente higiene luego de realizar necropsias, e implanta medidas profilácticas en el Hospital de Viena, las cuales reducen dramáticamente la mortalidad, pero sus ideas son rechazadas por que afectan el proceso de institucionalización de la medicina basado en el altruismo y honor, por los que supuestamente era imposible que causen daño a sus pacientes. Es obligado a retirarse del Hospital de Viena, y continua su lucha en Budapest, pero el rechazo y la incomprensión de sus colegas por su doctrina afecta su salud mental. Muere en un asilo, pocos años antes que Pasteur y Koch demuestren las bacterias causantes de enfermedades como la fiebre puerperal.

    Abstract in English:

    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 and established prophylactic measures 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, a few years before Pasteur and Koch proved the existence of the bacteria that caused diseases such as puerperal fever.
Instituto Nacional de Salud Lima - Lima - Peru
E-mail: revmedex@ins.gob.pe