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Medical Ethics and the Stewardship of Life
Medical Ethics and the Stewardship of Life

This article originally appeared in the December 15, 1978, issue of Christianity Today, three years before Koop, who died yesterday, was nominated to serve as U.S. Surgeon General.

C Everett Koop, chief surgeon of Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, received much publicity in 1974 as head of the surgical team to successfully separate Siamese twins. Recently, in another operation on Siamese twins, he had to decide which twin should live and which should die; both would have died if they had remained attached. Such pressures are not unusual.

Koop gets up at six A.M. to have his daily devotions. He drives to the hospital, arriving at about 7:20. He checks the files of the patients that he will be operating on that day and begins surgery at 8; three days a Week he finishes by 10:30 or 11. By then he has performed or six operations. He sees ten to fifteen patients after that, usually with a medical student, teaching him as he examines patients. Koop carries a load of administrative as well as teaching duties—committee meetings with staff, rounds, and conferences with students. After he leaves the hospital at 6:30, he still has about three hours of paper work to do. Koop's schedule has changed somewhat in the last few years. He now avoids long, tension-producing operations, leaving them to his younger colleagues, though he reserves Wednesday for his big cases.

When he first came to Chi1dren's Hospital in 1946, Koop had to convince people that the surgery he wanted to do on children would work. He almost lived at the hospital, leaving "my remarkable wife" to carry much of the weight of raising their children. The divorce rate among surgeons, explains Koop, is astronomical.

Assistant editor Cheryl ...

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Medical Ethics and the Stewardship of Life
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December 15, 1978

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