MEDICINE,
Bodies to GO


New York Times Magazine

Life can be rough abroad. Interpol estimates that in major Russian cities, like Moscow and St. Petersburg, the homicide rate has ballooned to twice New York City’s. and things aren’t much better in countries like Taiwan and Mexico. Many countries are now importing freelance American medical experts to assist often overwhelmed pathologists.

Well ahead of the competition is a Los Angeles-based outfit called Autopsy/Post Services, whose founder, Vidal Herrera, has already made headlines in the United States with his mobile units, which fill a niche created by the declining number of autopsies performed by hospitals and county coroners. Now the man sometimes called the Cadaver King is trying to go global. Herrera has recently applied for an international copyright on a new-and-improved disaster-response unit and is negotiating contracts to supply them to a range of countries, form Asia to South America.

The new body wagons would look something like Airstream travel trailers, cost $800,000 and up and be fitted with three to five “multipurpose work stations” and storage space for up to 16 bodies. Herrera, a 46-year-old autopsy technician, would oversee the training and selection of personnel. This is a big vision for a guy who didn’t start until 1988, four years after injuring his back when he lifted the body of a 284-pound woman while on duty for the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office. But it’s been working here.

“Before all this,” he says, “I was just a disabled schlep catching a bus.”

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