Dr. C. Everett Koop: RIP

By Dave Andrusko

Dr. C. Everett Koop

Dr. C. Everett Koop

I had already left the office Monday when pro-life former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop died at 96 years of age. Yesterday I was called away on other business, so it was not until today that I have an opportunity to address Dr. Koop’s passing.

Over the years we’ve talked a lot about Dr. Koop in conjunction with the agenda-changing impact of “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” I will again, briefly, in a moment. But first I’d like to look back at one of THE great National Right to Life Conventions—1985–which took place right here in Washington, DC.

The cover photo for the NRL News devoted to that historic gathering was of Mother Teresa holding a baby, her face positively radiant. During the three-day convention, she was joined at the podium by John Cardinal O’Connor and Dr. Kopp, who was by then President Reagan’s Surgeon General.

Think about that: three pro-life titans. If you were there, believe me, you could never forget any of the speeches, but especially those of Mother Teresa, Cardinal O’Connor, and Surgeon General Koop. (If that weren’t enough, the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the half-dozen most famous pro-life converts ever, spoke, as did Steven Mosher, who was the earliest—if not the first—to talk about China’s One-Child Policy backed up by forced abortion.)

Dr. Koop never shied away from a controversy nor a controversial issue, which meant he was the recipient of enormous praise and harsh, harsh criticism. At the 1985 NRLC Convention, he talked briefly about abortion and infanticide before turning to euthanasia. I happened to run across a copy of his prepared remarks, and they are—as they say—prophetic.

He alluded briefly to “Infant Doe,” which when used generically refers to babies born with problems who are not treated. Used specifically “Infant Doe” is an allusion to the 1982 case in Indiana. The child was born with a relatively minor eating difficulty(esophageal atresia –his esophagus was blocked) and with surgery he could eat.  Tragically his parents chose otherwise, and he starved to death. But his real “problem” was not a blocked esophagus. It was that he was born with Down syndrome.

One of the grim but illustrative comparisons in a very powerful speech was between “Infant Doe” and what Koop called “Granny Doe.” His point was that as heart-wrenching and cruel and inhumane it was not to treat babies born with disabilities, for every Infant Doe “there could be 15,000-20,000 Granny Does” in the next century.

“You have to arouse the family obligation toward the elderly in families,” Koop aid. If the elderly are not going to be abandoned we will have to look to extend families in many instances, And finally, churches, civic groups, and community effort can all work individually or together to provide resources for the elderly that will lift them out of those areas where decisions are likely to be made against them.” He added, “We have to find the people….we have to find the forces…and we have to find ways to fight disease, disability, and distress, And we have to keep on fighting until we win.”

To come full circle, as I mentioned at the top Dr. Koop and theologian Francis Schaeffer wrote a book together, along with a film series, that rocked the evangelical world out of its complacency. “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”

As Dr. Jean Garton explained, in a review for NRL News (see http://nrlc.cc/XiQJS2),

“The text and narration of the five-episode seminar were by Francis Schaeffer, an internationally acclaimed theologian, philosopher, and author, and C. Everett Koop, then surgeon-in-chief at Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital. They combined their individual expertise and experience to expose the subtle but rapid loss of human rights in America.

“They elaborated on those concerns in a textbook of the same name in which they explored in documented detail the growing acceptance of the once-unthinkable practices of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.”

If you’re of a certain age (mine) and an evangelical ( me), you remember like it was yesterday sitting down to watch the film series. You came away knowing you could no longer sit on the sidelines. The impact of Schaeffer and Koop on a generation of pro-lifers is impossible to exaggerate.

Our prayers go out to Dr. Koop’s family.