Insider questions lack of oversight of private medical examiners – NBC Los Angeles
Elyshia describes her 55-year-old mother, Sheri, as kind and loving.
“She was strong,” Nettleton says.
She says that in 2018, her mother suddenly fell ill and died suddenly in a hospital.
Nettleton wanted to know what caused her mother’s sudden death and tried to ask the coroner to do an autopsy.
“The coroner said no, (he) said if you want an autopsy done then you can pay for a private autopsy,” she explained.
Elysha says she paid over $ 3,000. She then waited months for a report. When she read the report, she said it didn’t make sense. The report said her mother’s eyes were brown while they were blue.
It turns out that the person who performed the autopsy does not appear to be authorized to perform the autopsies, nor did he assist a doctor as required. California State Law.
Vidal Herrera, a former medical examiner with decades of experience in the field, directs 1-800-AUTOPSY, a private company.
He tells the NBC4 I-Team that he has complained for years that unlicensed people perform autopsies.
“No one has really taken the time to really dig in to see what’s really going on,” Herrera said.
He says a lot of these unscrupulous companies are advertising online.
“The worst part is that they basically take advantage of families’ most vulnerable times when you need them,” Herrera said.
Herrera says he called the California State Medical Board and complained about people he met who allegedly performed unauthorized private autopsies, including a former employee he says he fired after finding out he performed autopsies without the presence of a licensed physician.
A spokesperson for the state medical commission told the I-Team in a statement: “If the commission was aware of a forensic autopsy performed by someone who is neither a doctor nor a surgeon, she would investigate and possibly refer the case to the local district attorney for prosecution as an unauthorized practice of medicine. The medical board could not tell us how many complaints or referrals it handled that were specifically related to autopsies.
State senator and physician Richard Pan (D – 6th arrondissement) helped pass the law requiring physicians to directly supervise autopsies.
He says he was surprised to hear the allegations of unauthorized autopsies. He told our NBC Bay Area I-Team that there is room for change.
“Based on some of the findings you have described, it looks like maybe more protections are needed,” State Senator Pan said.
Herrea says he welcomes any effort to improve surveillance, as he says there aren’t any at the moment.
Nettleton is one of many California families who have brought a civil action against the person who allegedly performed the illegal autopsies. Their cases were recently settled for an undisclosed amount. She offers grieving families this advice:
“Make sure you have a one-to-one meeting and ask for all the credentials,” she said. “I will never get the answers I was looking for,” she added.