Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, July 14, 2023

Dr Semmelweis @ Harold Pinter Theatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Stephen Brown’s tragic and frankly enraging play Dr Semmelweis at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London's glitzy West End.
Historically Dr Semmelweis was a doctor in Vienna in the mid-1800s who worked out (many years before it was universally accepted) how to stop so many women dying in hospital after giving birth.
The doctors simply needed to wash their hands in disinfectant before tending to the women. Something this just didn't do. Semmelweis didn't know exactly why the hand washing worked - but it did. It would be years later before germs / bacteria was cited as the cause of the deaths. Dr Semmelweis had hit upon the solution - but virtually no one believe him.  For instance, some doctors simply refused to believe that a gentleman's hands could transmit disease.
Despite the overwhelming empirical evidence, resistance from the medical establishment stopped his discovery being acclaimed and implemented and Semmelweis ended his life in a mental asylum dying – ironically enough – from sepsis, probably caused by an untreated wound after he had been beaten by guards.
Tens of thousands of women and children died before his work was taken up by Louis Pasteur and surgically by Joseph Lister some 20 years later.
Mark Rylance is mesmerising as the erstwhile, thin-skinned doctor who becomes growingly frantic as he is increasingly isolated - an outsider in the medical establishment. Dancers in corsets and gauze skirts circle our hero in fever dreams of the all the dead women he has been unable to save.
As Semmelweis's mind is becoming disturbed, director Tom Morris brings out an extraordinarily subtle and emotional performance from Rylance.
The tragic end for our hero, but more importantly for all the women and children who could have been saved, is very, very moving.
It's a great play, fabulously realised. 
As for the topic, there is now an expression, the "Semmelweis effect", which is a metaphor for the reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, or beliefs.

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