Sunday, 01 February 1998
When Vidal Herrera began doing autopsies and various other post-mortem services for a couple of funeral homes nine years ago, he didn't realize right away what he'd stumbled upon.
When Vidal Herrera began doing autopsies and various other post-mortem services for a couple of funeral homes nine years ago, he didn't realize right away what he'd stumbled upon. But if didn't take him long to recognize the need among funeral directors for his service.
Today, Herrera, founder and president of Autopsy/Post Services, Inc. is about to change the way America, and possibly the rest of the world, looks at the thanatology services. His idea-which is basically providing autopsy and post-mortem services to anyone that calls him - was recently given an honorable mention by Inc. magazine in their yearly Marketing Masters Awards.
Herrera said that the growing practice of cutting costs at any expense has found its way into the medical industry, forcing many hospitals and medical professionals to limit, and in many cases do away with offering autopsy and post-mortem services. This, Herrera said last week at the Death Care WorldExpo'98 leaves a family little options when an unexpected death occurs, leaving many unanswered questions.
"In 1978, almost 50 percent of all deaths were routinely autopsied." Herrera said. "The current national average is down to almost two percent. Of the 2.45 million deaths per year, 10.5 percent are because of medical malpractice, and 22 percent are misdiagnoses."
Many funeral directors are faced with families whose loved ones fall into one of the above categories, and slowly but surely Herrera got in touch with them. Word of Herrera's services spread quickly among Los Angeles-area funeral directors. He secured and patented the phone number 1-800-AUTOPSY, purchased a used car in a yard sale for $100, got a pager and voice mail service, and that's about the time the rest of the country started to take notice.
"Funeral directors are the ones that have actually put me into business. When families come to them and ask them for an autopsy, since they are not medical practitioners, they call 1-800AUTOPSY." Herrera said. "This is a recession-resistant business. I've gone where the competition didn't. It's totally a niche business and I would predict that by the end of this year we'll be taking the world by surprise, in terms of business."
If Herrera's prediction sounds bold, he's got plenty of reason to be. At last week DCWX '98, Herrera was visited by Japanese businessmen interested in purchasing 11 of his franchises. Another group from China expressed interest in approximately 20 franchises. In addition, the delegation from the Dutch and French funeral trade shows agreed to completely sponsor his travel and appearance at their upcoming shows.
"For me, this was a very productive convention, and these last two years have just been overwhelming." Herrera said. "We now have bodies flown to us from all over the country and the world. We do most of Johnnie Cochrane's autopsies as well as Milton Grimes, We treat every case like is was a murder. We never compromise when it comes to the dead. Our motto is that the deceased must be protected and given a voice. That's what we do."