C. Everett Koop, RIP

by Wesley J. Smith

The passing of pediatric surgeon and former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, should not go without comment here.

Koop, the SG under President Ronald Reagan, actively defended the unique dignity and sanctity of human life. For example, when courts allowed parents and doctors to deny life-saving surgery of an intestinal blockage to a baby with Down syndrome–the baby dehydrated to death–Koop was outraged. (If a “normal” child were allowed to dehydrate in a similar manner, the courts would unquestionably have required the surgery.) Using the visibility of his office, Koop engaged the issue vigorously in the public square and political halls of power. Due in large part to his sterling efforts, the Baby Doe Law was passed to protect infants from being invidiously discriminated against based on “quality of life” judgmentalism.    

Koop effectively argued on behalf of a vigorous fight against AIDS as a public health catastrophe, when some others were squeamish about the subject. As he properly saw it, the issue was stopping the disease, not making moral judgments about its most visible victims. He also engaged an effective public information campaign about the health dangers of smoking.

Dr. Koop believed in the values of the Hippocratic Oath. He saved lives in both his professional and political lives. Hats off to a great defender of human life for his service to humanity.

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