Joseph Lis­ter

Palawan Daily News - - Editorial -

One hun­dred and forty years ago, al­most 50 per­cent of the pa­tients un­der­go­ing ma­jor surgery died from in­fec­tion due largely to the filthy con­di­tions. Doc­tors were be­wil­dered why 80 per­cent more women died giv­ing birth in hospi­tals com­pared to those who had their ba­bies at home. Back then, doc­tors wore bloody aprons and went from pa­tient to pa­tient with­out wash­ing their hands or in­stru­ments. Pa­tients with mi­nor wounds of­ten died from in­fec­tion or blood poi­son­ing trans­mit­ted by the doc­tor.

In the 1860s, a deeply re­li­gious English sur­geon, Joseph Lis­ter, was dis­turbed about the stag­ger­ing num­ber of pa­tients dy­ing from in­fec­tion. He read in the Bi­ble where God told the Is­raelites to wash af­ter con­tact with the sick or a dead body. Based on this and Louis Pas­teur’s dis­cov­er­ies, Lis­ter rec­og­nized germs as the likely source of in­fec­tion. He sug­gested sur­geons dress cleanly, wash their hands, and ster­il­ize in­stru­ments be­fore op­er­at­ing. He in­sisted that the op­er­at­ing room be kept clean. He also de­vel­oped a method for pre­vent­ing in­fec­tion dur­ing an op­er­a­tion by treat­ing wounds with an an­tisep­tic.

At first Lis­ter was re­garded as ec­cen­tric, and nurses re­sented the ex­tra work caused by his ob­ses­sion with clean­li­ness. Then there was a pe­riod of sig­nif­i­cant mock­ing and re­sis­tance from his peers. Lis­ter, a shy but de­ter­mined man, was firm in his pur­pose. He humbly be­lieved he was di­rected and in­spired by God in this en­deavor. In spite of all the op­po­si­tion that he faced, he never gave up.

As the mock­ing went on, ev­ery­one be­gan to no­tice a change. The deaths from blood poi­son­ing, in­fec­tion, and gan­grene were greatly re­duced in Joseph Lis­ter’s hospi­tal ward in Glas­gow. Even­tu­ally, Bri­tish and Amer­i­can hospi­tals saw the ben­e­fits and grad­u­ally adopted the ster­ile pro­ce­dures pro­moted by Dr. Lis­ter. Be­fore he died, Lis­ter’s ser­vices to medicine were rec­og­nized and he was awarded a knight­hood. Louis Pas­teur de­scribed Lis­ter as one of the great­est men of the 19th cen­tury.

It’s amaz­ing how the world has been trans­formed by ap­ply­ing the sim­ple rules of san­i­ta­tion found in the Bi­ble. But did you know there are many other bib­li­cal se­crets of health the world is ne­glect­ing? The God who formed us knows the prin­ci­ples of car­ing for the bod­ies He has given us. He lov­ingly shares that wis­dom with us in His Word.


He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be un­clean seven days. Num­bers 19:11He shall pu­rify him­self with it on the third day, and on the sev­enth day he shall be clean: but if he pu­rify not him­self the third day, then the sev­enth day he shall not be clean. Num­bers 19:12

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