While today it seems obvious that one should disinfect one's hands and instruments before attending to a woman in labour, at the time his suggestion that the Doctors themselves were killing their patients outraged his colleagues. They were gentlemen and professionals, how dare he suggest they had "dirty" hands in need of washing. (Surgeons at the time actually wore blood encrusted aprons while working and took pride in that "good old surgical stink".) While the benefits of his disinfecting policy were confirmed repeatedly through statistical analysis, it was thought there was no scientific basis for his findings since he could offer no acceptable explanation. Sound familiar?
The world would have to wait 20 years for Louis Pasteur's germ theory of disease and in the meantime women died unnecessarily. Though everwhere Dr. Semmelweis instituted his disinfecting policy the death rate dropped, he was considered a dangerous radical and eventually lost his last posting in Budapest. (After leaving the replacement physician returned to the old ways and the death rate climbed dramatically as one might expect.) In 1858 Dr. Semmelweis published "The Etiology of Childbed Fever". He wrote Open Letters of desperate fury against the authorities who rejected his ideas. In August1865 he was lured into an insane asylum under a false pretence and when he realized he was about to be admitted as insane himself, he tried to flee. The guards beat him and two weeks later he died of septicemia age 47. He died a rejected and forgotten man just at the moment that Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory of disease with his triumphal Sorbonne lecture in 1864 against the idea of "spontaneous generation". August 1865 the same month as Dr. Semmelweis' death, Joseph Lister treated a boy's wounds using carbolic acid (phenol) to prevent "supperation", and in August 1867 Lister read his famous paper Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery to launch the practice of antiseptic surgery.
Ignaz Semmelweis is now honored in his native Hungary, and recognized worldwide as the "father of modern antisepsis".
The Semmelweis Reflex is now used as "a metaphor for the reflex like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs, or paradigms."
Dr. Timothy Leary in The Game of Life more pithily defined this reflex as "Mob behavior found among primates and larval hominids on undeveloped planets, in which a discovery of important scientific fact is punished."
I believe it is just such a reflex at work now in the refusal to recognize CCSVI - Multiple Sclerosis as primarily a blood circulation disorder. More later.
(Most of this material and quotes taken from Wikipedia)