Dr. Milton Wolf, a U.S. Republican Senate candidate from Kansas, is under fire for posting to his Facebook page a collection of grisly "X-ray images of gunshot fatalities and medical injuries" he acquired as a radiologist and making "macabre jokes" about them online, the Topeka Capital Journal reports.
Wolf, a tea party activist and distant cousin to President Barack Obama, declined "to clearly answer questions about whether he continued to place images of deceased people on the Internet," and walked out of an interview with the newspaper.
“Do you still post images of dead people on the Internet?” a reporter for the paper asked Wolf.
"I'm not going to play these kinds of gotcha games," he responded before walking away.
Wolf, who is challenging three-term Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in the GOP primary, had told the paper the images were "legally uploaded to public social media sites and other online venues for educational purposes" and used "to demonstrate evil lurking in the world."
But medical professionals told the paper the postings raise serious privacy issues.
"The dignity and privacy of the individual should be protected,” John Carney, president of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Mo., said. “It doesn't sound like they're being protected if they're, obviously, on Facebook.”
A spokesman for Roberts' campaign called for an investigation into Wolf's actions.
“For any doctor to make patient records public and then use the records for public discussion and entertainment is just unthinkable,” Leroy Towns, Roberts' spokesman, said. “Allegations of such lack of judgment demand extensive scrutiny and investigation.”
On Saturday, Wolf released a lengthy statement addressing the images and accusing Roberts of "character assassination":
My training as a diagnostic radiologist included the critical component of studying medical images published both in textbooks and online. I have myself authored and published educational material that teaches medical imaging to medical students and doctors. Of the thousands of medical images I have published I have taken care to maintain patient privacy.
Several years ago I made some comments about these images that were insensitive to the seriousness of what the images revealed. Soon thereafter, I removed those images and comments, again several years ago. For them to be published in a much more public context now, by a political adversary who would rather declare war on doctors than answer serious questions that Kansans have, is truly sad. However, my mistakes are my own and I take full responsibility for them.
I have said throughout this campaign and long before it began that I bear the scars of taking the Oath to my patients. When I was 15 years old, I stood at my father's bedside, himself a rural doctor, and watched him take his last breath. It was at that moment that I knew I would take his torch and dedicate my life to serving patients in need. I'm reminded just how extraordinarily difficult the burden is when I have failed to live up to his example.
It is an incredible honor and an enormous burden to work shoulder-to-shoulder with dedicated people who every day run towards the screaming instead of away. The cumulative effect of day after day, year after year, witnessing so much human suffering, so much tragedy, takes its toll. I've seen the burdens of practicing medicine tear apart families and drive good people to vice and as great as the honor is to serve, I would still not wish the burdens of it upon anyone. To those I have offended, I am truly sorry and I ask for your forgiveness.
And now, years later, because I have declared that I am willing to stand up for my country, Senator Pat Roberts wants to attack me as a doctor rather than giving Kansans a reason to vote for him. It's sad. Pat Roberts has not been able to identify a single issue on which he thinks I am wrong and so he's doing things the Washington way: character assassination. Kansans should know that I will not be intimidated by their bullying. I did not back down when Barack Obama's IRS audited me and I will not back down from the desperate attacks of a 47-year Washington insider either.
Wolf, author of a book entitled "First, Do No Harm: The President's Cousin Explains Why His Hippocratic Oath Requires Him to Oppose ObamaCare," has been outspoken in his views about his distant relative.
"If I had a cousin who intercepts every phone call in America but won't take a phone call from the Navy Seals in their hour of need, he'd look like Barack," Wolf said last year. "If I had a cousin that doesn't trust law-abiding Americans to arm themselves and yet arms the Muslim Brotherhood with fighter jets and Mexican drug lords with fast and furious guns, he'd look like Barack."