Brow Beat

John Oliver Dissects (Sorry) the Messed-Up System for Death Investigations

Last Week Tonight eviscerates eviscerations.

On a show famous for its “eviscerations” of its targets, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Last Week Tonight eviscerated … eviscerations. Sure, as John Oliver pointed out on Sunday’s episode, autopsies aren’t all bad: They can “help identify new trends in substance abuse, they warn us about defective products, and they can sound the alarm when they spot an infectious disease,” in addition to identifying an individual person’s cause of death. However, our current system for investigating deaths is, well, if not exactly flatlining, then at least on life support: It lacks sufficient funding and lets just about anyone become a coroner (which is not the same as as a medical examiner).

If you have a weak stomach, you might want to brace yourself for 22 straight minutes about these death investigations, which include descriptions of storage units filled with human organs, forensic pathologists letting their kids play with human brains, and a phony doctor whose makeshift morgue has carpeting. Carpeting!

Still, the grisliest details are about how these botched investigations can lead to dubious results and monthslong delays in death certificates, which take a toll on families. “You shouldn’t have to wait that long for something that important. It’s not like making someone wait eight years to find out who wins the Game of Thrones, said Oliver, whose prediction that Ed Sheeran would rule is only mildly less controversial than the actual ending.