This Scalpel For Hire

MACLEAN'S — Friday, 01 April 1994

In the home of drive-by shootings, the sight of a white van with the logo “1-800-AUTOPSY” is hardly comforting. But for Vidal Herrera, it pays to advertise. After 14 years as an autopsy technician and investigator with the Los Angeles County coroner's office, Herrera's career was cut short in 1984 when he injured his back trying to lift a body. Unable to find steady employment, he started his business, Autopsy/Post Services, in 1988. “I never dreamed I would go back into the body business,” says Herrera,. “But I had no choice.” It turned out to e a master stroke: from humble beginnings, Autopsy/Post now has four full-time employees and performs between 500 and 600 autopsies a year. Herrera says that private autopsies, mostly for families seeking second opinions or considering malpractice suits, account for 20 per cent of this business. He also performs tissue procurements for the UCLA medical school-“That could be anywhere from 300 to 500 additional bodies, where I'll go out and remove brains, or livers or kidneys, pancreases, legs, arms, whatever is needed.” Business is up 50 per cent since last year, when he started his one-van ad campaign and Herrera now plans to franchise nationally. “It's a very exciting business that nobody really thinks about,” he says. “But you know, everybody's going to die.”