Dr. C. Everett Koop, U.S. Surgeon General during the Reagan
Administration, died on Monday, February 25. He was 96.
Koop, a pediatric surgeon, an avowed foe of abortion, and a
principled conservative, served in this post from 1982 until
1989, resigning in the early months of President George
H.W. Bush's presidency. During his tenure he played a
pivotal role in educating Americans about AIDS in the
pandemic which created an awareness of the deadly disease.
Koop authored a groundbreaking official report on AIDS
--- a plain-spoken 36-page document --- detailing how the
disease spread (through blood, needles, and sexual contact)
and how it did not spread (casual contact in homes, offices,
schools, and public places in general) as well as what people
could do for protection.
Most notable about Koop's report, he stressed that abstinence
and monogamy were the best means of protection from AIDS,
but that medical experts had a duty to inform sexually active
people how they could avoid the disease, even recommending
using condoms. Koop also advocated sex education for school-
children. Both of these ideas took liberals and conservatives by
surprise; gladdening the former while shocking the latter. But
Koop felt that his mission, as a doctor, was to save as many lives
as possible with preventative measures such as these.
"My position on AIDS was dictated by scientific integrity and
Christian compassion," Koop stated in the 1991 biography of
his noteworthy life and career Kopp: The Memoirs of America's
Family Doctor. "It is time to put self-defeating attitudes aside
and recognize that we are fighting a disease, not people."
Kopp also tackled other health issues, including smoking,
alcoholic consumption, pre-natal and post-natal care. In 1995,
he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
One of the highest-profile surgeons general in the history of
that post, Kopp was a man who thought outside of the box while
maintaining the principles which guided him throughout his
life. Would that we had politicians who function in this manner.
Godspeed, Doctor Koop. America will never have a finer family