4 The Problem beneath Other Problems

“Have you ever heard of Ignaz Semmelweis?” Bud asked. (He pronounced it “Ignawts Semelvice.”)

“No, I don’t think so. Is it a sickness or something?”

“No, no,” he said with a chuckle. “But close. Semmelweis was a European doctor, an obstetrician, in the mid-1800s. He worked at the Vienna General Hospital, an important research hospital, where he tried to get to the bottom of a horrendous mortality rate among women in the maternity ward. In the section of the ward where Semmelweis practiced, the mortality rate was 1 in 10. Think of it. One in every 10 women giving birth there died! Can you imagine?”

“I wouldn’t have let my wife near the place,” I said.

“You wouldn’t have been alone. Vienna General had such a ...

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