Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop—known for his medical advocacy and his evangelical Christian faith—died today at age 96. This profile, originally published in CT's October 20, 1989, issue, was published shortly after Koop resigned from the Department of Health and Human Services.
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In the first of a two-part series, CT's editor at large recounts the setbacks and triumphs of C. Everett Koop's eight-year term as U .S. Surgeon General. Part 2, an interview to appear in the next issue, will present Koop's own words about his concerns as he returns to private life.
In three decades of surgery at Philadelphia's Children's Hospital, C. Everett Koop pioneered techniques that saved the lives of premature and malformed babies. Meanwhile, in another wing of the hospital an abortion clinic opened, capable of eliminating 10 to 15 lives in the time it took Koop to save 1 or 2. Abortion increasingly became for Koop a simple, black-and-white issue. When he finally spoke out on abortion, he spoke with conviction, calling the Roe v. Wade ruling "the most important event in American history since the Civil War."
For a time Koop even suspended his brilliant career in pediatric surgery to go on the stump with L'Abri founder Francis Schaeffer. In a dramatic scene from the Schaeffer-produced film series Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Koop looked out on a thousand naked dolls strewn across the salt wastes of the Dead Sea and proclaimed, "I am standing on the site of Sodom, the place of evil and death."
Koop tends to see faith, too, in shades of black and white. He became a committed Christian as an adult while attending Donald Grey Barnhouse's Tenth Presbyterian ...1