John Oliver Takes on Our Broken Death Investigation System on Last Week Tonight

Comedy News Last Week Tonight
John Oliver Takes on Our Broken Death Investigation System on Last Week Tonight

With a large Big Gulp at his side and Tracy Morgan to back him up, John Oliver addressed the broken medical investigation system on Sunday night’s new episode of Last Week Tonight.

Oliver began by calling attention to the infestation of television shows glamorizing medical examiners and death investigation facilities, which, as he states, don’t account for the severe flaws within the system. The lack of funding and resources, antiquated facilities and personnel shortages aren’t once addressed in episodes of Rizzoli & Isles or Body Proof.

Oliver points out that the system is overrun with conflicts of interest, underpaid employees and under-qualified coroners, who, unlike state-certified medical examiners, are not required to be medically trained. To Oliver’s horror, this leaves hairdressers, handymen and farmers eligible for the job.

Oliver is happy to demonstrate the consequences of hiring under-qualified personnel to conduct autopsies, which include the creation of makeshift morgues, negligent investigations, and medical examiners harboring stolen organs, posing in photographs with dismembered heads and removing human brains from stock jars to take home to their children.

Oliver concludes the segment by offering improvements to the fractured system, which he describes as combining two things that people hate thinking about the most: death and municipal funding. In an ideal world, Oliver says, no one would die, but for the time being, medical professionals must ensure autopsies are performed or supervised by board-certified forensic pathologists and properly fund the facilities necessary for medical investigations.

He urges the audience to think of the issue in a more abstract way, posing the question: “Would you want Glenn Close to wind up in an autopsy dungeon, or to have her spleen eaten by a dog?” The camera cuts to Close, pictured stoically in a directors chair in her home, demanding we show her spleen some respect.

Oliver leads out by introducing a video message about the importance of death investigation systems delivered by Tracy Morgan, who implores: “I cannot have some dog out here eating Glenn Close’s spleen.”

Watch the full segment from Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight below. The show airs Sunday nights at 11 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

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