R.I.P. C. Everett Koop

Feb 25 2013 Published by under Public Health

via Wikipedia

For those of us of a certain age, Dr. C. Everett Koop will always be the iconic Surgeon General of the United States of America.

For me, the reasons that he was also a great Surgeon General is summed up in these few lines in the ABC News item on Koop's passing.

Koop carried out a crusade to end smoking in the United States; his goal had been to do so by 2000. He said cigarettes were as addictive as heroin and cocaine. And he shocked his conservative supporters when he endorsed condoms and sex education to stop the spread of AIDS.

These were both very, very important things for the nation's top health official to do at the time. Especially when the President himself couldn't bear to say "AIDS" in public and many people still believed that smoking was just a 'habit', that low-tar and filtered cigarettes were safer and that the link to cancer had never been "scientifically proven" anyway.

RIP Dr. Koop

8 responses so far

  • DJMH says:

    And an evangelical Christian, to boot. Hard to see that being a likely combination in this day.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    CEK was the real deal.

  • Although a staunch anti-abortion person, he refused to suppress studies showing most women suffered no ill-effects, physical or emotional, after an abortion. The study showed what it showed; he might disagree with abortion and politically oppose it, but he wasn't going to lie about the science.
    Facts were facts, even if you disagreed with what to do about them.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Yup. even as a fundie, appointed by Reagan specifically because of that fact, Koop stayed serious about his professional role. He demonstrably did some things that social conservatives were enraged about. Another credit to the man.

  • miko says:

    Back then, the GOP didn't have ideological purity tests as rigorous as the ones they have today.

  • Beaker says:

    This essay in the New Yorker waxes with particular eloquence about CEK. Sometimes it is difficult to stick to your principles while never dismissing the data. Koop did that with grace.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I dunno miko...they just hadn't moved the Overton Window so far yet. But they were puh-lenty ideological. That was the emergence of the "Christian Coalition" and " Moral Majority" type political power.

  • My Mom was in public health and knew Koop. He was every bit the person that these stories tell. Once they were driving somewhere in DC, and a car of gay men (according to my mother "If I could recognize them as such, they must have been) pulled up, stuck their arms out the windows, waving condoms, and said "Dr. Koop, Dr. Koop, we're protected" and he evidently waved back and said (with or without irony, my mother was unsure) "Keep it up, boys".

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