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1-800-AUTOPSY is real — and you might need it one day




Vidal Herrera owns 1800Autospy in Los Angeles, CA May 18, 2011.  Herrera wants to franchise his business and hopes veterans coming back  from war will open autopsy businesses around the U.S.(Andy Holzman/Daily News Staff Photographer)
Vidal Herrera owns 1800Autospy in Los Angeles, CA May 18, 2011. Herrera wants to franchise his business and hopes veterans coming back from war will open autopsy businesses around the U.S.(Andy Holzman/Daily News Staff Photographer)
ANDY HOLZMAN/LA DAILY NEWS

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It sounds like another LA gimmick at first blush: A wrapped truck with 1-800-AUTOPSY blocked out in big bold letters, the morbid cousin to Angelyne's bright pink Corvette. John Rabe snapped a photo.

He was tickled by the idea. Is it a prank? A television prop vehicle? What happens when you call the number? Is it a chat line for autopsy fans? 

"Autopsies are in decline in America," says Vidal Herrera, former Field Deputy Coroner-Investigator for the Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Coroner.

He says this becomes a problem when someone comes in for a routine surgery but dies from "complications" that can't be verified. Vicki Herrera, Vidal's boss and wife, adds, "It could be something as simple as not turning the oxygen on." 

Down the rabbit hole we go, putting verbal points on a map that sprawls out and touches a multitude of factors: the medical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, medical malpractice, the insurance industry, how former competitors have sold body parts on the black market, and so forth.

Given Herrera's experience, he knows that autopsies have come a long way since he started his career.

"Back in my day, coroners were former embalmers," reflecting on how now the profession requires a degree and rigorous training.

Still, he sees plenty of room for improvement, "We've gotta get better. We have to get better."