On hygiene, intellectual and otherwise

Medical science had an irrefutable argument against it: sterilization of surgical cutlery would have no beneficial effect at all because, if it had, the practice would have been introduced a long time ago. After all, boiling water was already available at the time of Hippocrates.

.. Medical research was a little bit more tolerant in the sense that they admitted that, yes, perhaps some of such hygienic practices could be allowed in the case of novice surgeons, whose work was anyhow confined to toy operations. Research, however, would not pursue it since it was ridiculous to believe that the sterilization of their cutlery would enable surgeons to cure all diseases.

.. imposing such artificial disciplines in the operating rooms would stifle the surgical creativity of its members, and, secondly, that, if sterilization of the knife really helped, everybody would be able to operate and that would be totally intolerable. Furthermore, what was then known as operational research had shown that the proposed sterilization procedures would be much too complicated for the average nurse.

.. Emotional protest came from the nurses themselves, who loved to take care of the very sick and whose devotion rose in those days to unfathomed heights each time a young patient died in their arms. The spectre of routine operations was a threat to their job satisfaction, greater than they could endure.

.. Eventually, emotions ran so high that the Church could not remain silent any longer. It settled the matter on moral grounds: since it is Man’s predicament to die, it would be immoral even to try to reduce the natural mortality rate of the surgical wards by such unnatural and counterintuitive acts as boiling a pair of scissors: the sole purposes for which God had created hot water were

  • the cooking of food and
  • the boiling of heretics

such as the practitioners of greater hygiene, be it surgical or otherwise.

Comments: Hacker News