Except for a small poster of the Grateful Dead rock band, thereâ€™s very little to indicate what happens behind the walled-in industrial compound in East Los Angeles owned by Vidal and Vicki Herrera.
The only hint a casual observer might have is when a white Hummer pulls in or out of the driveway, the words â€œ1-800-AUTOPSYâ€ in bold black lettering on its side.
â€œThey say dead men tell no tales, but I disagree,â€ says Vidal Hererra, a veteran autopsy technician.
And he should know. Hererra and his wife Vicki, the owners and creators of 1-800-AUTOPSY, a mom-and-pop business that provides private post-mortem examinations, hear tales from the dead every day â€” tales of drug abuse, poisonings, violence and medical malpractice.
Hererraâ€™s business is one that might give many the chills, but he insists itâ€™s a business with a red-hot future.
Autopsies used to be a normal procedure for deaths in U.S. hospitals, mainly to understand fully the cause of patientsâ€™ deaths. But the growth of managed health care plans has brought cutbacks, and these days only 2 to 5 percent of deaths are autopsied in hospitals, compared with about 50 percent of deaths in the 1970s. But demand remains constant, Hererra notes: Family members still want to know why their loved ones died.
â€œDeath is, in fact, a recession-proof business â€” it just never stops,â€ said Hererra.
Photo by 1-800-AUTOPSY.