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September 22, 2011 / Christian M.

Living Over 80 Years with a Hole in His Head….

The history of medicine can be fascinating, as we learn about the different pioneers and researchers, and their developments that have contributed to improving the quality of health and our knowledge of the human body. However, it can also be very disturbing as we learn about unscrupulous physicians and researchers who abused the human rights of others in order to make gains in the field of medicine. They took advantage of the ignorance of the poor and uneducated, or even outright lied about the situation.

Here in America, we all know (or should know) about the Tuskegee Syphilis Study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service. Or, about the HeLa cells taken without permission from Henrietta Lacks and used for many important medical discoveries.

Well, I just learned of a new travesty during my Health Sciences Literature class last night. This one involves Vertus Hardiman, an African American male who was experimented on with radiation when he was only five years old. Overexposure to the radiation literally melted his scalp and created a hole in his skull. He lived with this damage for the rest of his life.

A documentary called Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed will be released on dvd in November 2011, detailing Vertus Hardiman’s life story. It seems like it would be a gruesome topic (and some of the photos are graphic), but when watching the trailer, I’m in awe of this man’s spirit, positive attitude, and lack of bitterness. I think his story will be enlightening and also inspiring.

I encourage you to watch the documentary when it comes out. These stories need to be told, and I appreciate that this one not only illuminates injustice and a history some would like to stay hidden, but also celebrates the strength of the survivors.

If you are interested in more information on the topic of medical experimentation in the United States (specifically involving African Americans), look up the book Medical Apartheid. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m going to borrow it from the library. I stumbled across the title while searching online.


If I were angry, my prayers would not be answered and your heart’s not right if you’re angry.

~ Vertus Hardiman


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