Wash Your Hands, Keep the Germs Away

Paul U. Unschuld

in What Is Medicine?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257658
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944701 | DOI:
Wash Your Hands, Keep the Germs Away

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This chapter examines the views of experts from the nineteenth century on the reasons that lead to the sickness of an individual. Some believed that pathogens were responsible for sickness. Others said that pathogens could invade the body only if a door had been opened beforehand. Robert Koch believed the defense strategy involved washing hands and keeping germs away. The chapter also focuses on the new cleanliness of society. Every individual was responsible for his own morality. The sick person was doubly victimized by the system. First, the environment made someone ill and second, the body's defense system has failed. The environment might have caused so much stress that made a person sick. Sometimes an individual's carelessness openly invites the pathogen. But there are not always a great number of pathogens or self-culpability. The new plausibility diverted responsibility from the lone individual to the system.

Keywords: sickness; pathogens; defense strategy; society; environment

Chapter.  941 words. 

Subjects: Medical Anthropology

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