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The birth of Antisepsis

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Lister's system of antisepsis.
    1. Considering the effectiveness of antiseptics in the treatment of surgical wounds.
    2. Physicians - skeptical of Lister's findings.
    3. Lister's antiseptic principles - unheard during his stay at King's.
  3. Implementation of Lister's findings.
    1. More people begin to visit hospitals.
    2. The poor - welcomed and accepted in English hospitals.
    3. The rise of hospitals - disparages in treatment received.
    4. The increased costs brought about by the use of antiseptics.
  4. Lister's and other scientist's work with antiseptics.
  5. Conclusion.

Joseph Lister's publication of ?On the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery? presented to the medical world Lister's method of using antiseptics made from carbolic acid during surgery. Lister hoped to use disinfectants to not only effectively heal more surgical patients but to disprove the current theory that infections during surgery were caused when oxygen entered human tissue. Although it took some time, Lister's use of antisepsis radically changed the way surgery was undertaken, as well as the way hospitals, physicians, and the entire medical system functioned in England. This had a profound impact on the condition and application of medical treatment in regards to the poor of the England. However, as no link has been sufficiently drawn between the quality of health care provided to the poor of England and the introduction of antiseptics into mainstream medical use by Joseph Lister, I shall answer the question: "How did the use of disinfectants by Joseph Lister and other late 19th Century physicians to change the way surgical wounds were treated affect the quality and amount of medical treatment given to the English poor from 1880 to 1912?"

[...] One example can be seen in Lister's presentation on fermentation to the student's of King's College Hospital, which was regarded by his followers as brilliant and most hopeful beginning of what [they] regarded as a campaign in the enemy's country? (Walker, 160). These feelings came largely from Lister's own feelings on the matter. Lister's antiseptic principles often went unheard during his stay at King's, and he often was forced to lecture to nearly empty halls, given the radically new quality of his practices. [...]


[...] Antiseptics helped combat deadly diseases such as cholera, eradicate hospital gangrene, pyaemia, erysipelas, and allow for a wider variety of medical operations, such as surgical procedures involving the cranium or spine, to be conducted. However, these things would not have occurred without Lister's determination to gain acceptance for the antiseptic principle of surgical treatment. Lister's numerous speeches, meetings, writings, lectures, and treatments of patients using antiseptics made it impossible for any honest person to refute the benefits of antiseptics. Consequently, antiseptics found their way into every hospital in England, much to the benefit of its patients, including the poor. [...]


[...] This can be seen as early as Lister's first experiments with antiseptic treatment, upon which he reflects: Previously the two large wards in which most of my cases are treated were among the unhealthiest in the whole surgical division of the Glascow Royal Infirmary But since the antiseptic treatment my wards, though in other respects under precisely the same circumstances as before, have completely changed their character; so that during the last nine months not a single instance of pyaemia, hospital gangrene, or erysipelas has occurred in them. [...]

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