Semmelweis Reflex

Semmelweis Reflex

April 14, 2012

Allan Stevo

The Semmelweis reflex is named for the Central European doctor Ignaz Semmelweis who proposed the controversial idea that doctors wash their hands between working with rotting corpses and touching the birth canal of mothers in labor.

His notion that doctors wash their hands was strongly opposed by the medical community that he was a part of, likely ultimately leading to his sad and early death in an asylum.

Educated society’s response to Semmelweis – known as “confirmation bias” –  is something that researchers have come to discover is typical of people who are educated.  This inability to entertain opposing ideas, but to instead seek out only evidence that supports existing beliefs, is a phenomena that will become increasingly important as more people in the world become wealthier and unquestionably look to education as an ultimate good.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at  He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing.  You can find more of his writing at  If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email.  You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

  • join our mailing list
  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments on