When the Truth is Not Enough
JOSEPH AARON SHRAND
Bad things can happen when someone is not given respect. In the case of Phillip Ignaz Semmelweis it costs thousands of lives, including the life of Semmelweis himself. Who was this remarkable man, and why is his story so little known outside his native home of Hungary?
Semmelweis is a musical based on a true story that pits one man’s struggle for truth and justice against the cynicism and politics of the medical system. While the show takes place in the 1840’s, it is a damning comment on our own time. Semmelweis stirs issues of women’s rights, the conflict between medical care and managed care, about the ethics of medical research and discovery, the conflict between the religious right and the scientific community, about love, loyalty, betrayal, intrigue, sanity and madness. The musical delves into our relationship to God, discovery and rejection, elation and despair, and the ultimate sacrifice of one man to save the lives of thousands.
I believe that Semmelweis has a story that must be told. His discovery, so simple and so pure, was ridiculed and abandoned in his time. Now, it is so accepted that it is inconceivable it was ever questioned. While famous in his native land of Hungary, the name Semmelweis is practically unknown in the United States. It is my firm belief that we can help correct this injustice, and afford this remarkable man his rightful place in the consciousness of our people.
This musical is based on a true and remarkable piece of history. Childbed fever was killing thousands of women throughout Europe in the 1840’s. Women, mostly poor and underprivileged, would come to the hospital to give birth, only to be struck down by a fever of unknown origin two or three days after delivering their infant. This musical is about Doctor Phillip Semmelweis, a Hungarian obstetrician practicing in Vienna, Austria. Semmelweis worked in the Vienna Medical School, the most influential medical establishment in Europe. He was confronted with a simple but shocking reality. On his obstetrics ward, ten, fifteen, twenty out of a hundred women and their newborn “sucklings” would die from childbed fever. But just down the hallway, in the midwife ward, childbed fever was non-existent. Why?
Ghosts, friends, enemies, and lovers drive Semmelweis on his path of truth and justice. This compelling musical takes the audience through the anguish and urgency of Semmelweis’ quest, his discovery and horrific realization as to the cause of the fever, the medical communities’ response, and his ultimate sacrifice to convince the world that his discovery was indeed correct.
If interested in the full CD and script, let me know. I am always looking for a producer!