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Tuesday, June 18, 2019
   
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COLUMNISTS

Honorable Intent, Detrimental Effect

Building Future Leaders

Your intentions are good. You want to help. Something unexpectedly goes wrong, and the effect of your behavior is extremely damaging. You’re devastated. But, you’re not alone. It happens to all of us. The following historical example illustrates that what we intend is not always what occurs.
Imagine Europe in the middle 1800s. An obstetrician named Ignatz Semmelweis was concerned about the number of new mothers in Vienna dying from puerperal or “childbed” fever. With an insatiable desire to learn, he had worked for many years in a research hospital, sharing his knowledge with young doctors. Despite every effort to serve his patients well, an astonishing 13 percent of new mothers under his care died after giving birth.
Because of a shortage of trained physicians, midwives cared for some of the new mothers in an adjacent ward. The deaths from childbed fever there were only 2 percent. What could explain the difference in the death rate? Semmelweis was perplexed. He expected that the results should be far better in the ward served by the more educated professionals.
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