§ 130A-115. Death registration.
(a) A death certificate for each death which occurs in this State shall be filed with the local registrar of the county in which the death occurred within five days after the death. If the place of death is unknown, a death certificate shall be filed within five days in the county where the dead body is found. If the death occurs in a moving conveyance, a death certificate shall be filed in the county in which the dead body was first removed from the conveyance.
(b) The funeral director or person acting as such who first assumes custody of a dead body shall file the death certificate with the local registrar. The personal data shall be obtained from the next of kin or the best qualified person or source available. The funeral director or person acting as such is responsible for obtaining the medical certification of the cause of death, stating facts relative to the date and place of burial, and filing the death certificate with the local registrar within five days of the death.
(c) The medical certification shall be completed and signed by the physician in charge of the patient's care for the illness or condition which resulted in death, except when the death falls within the circumstances described in G.S. 130A-383. In the absence of the physician or with the physician's approval, the certificate may be completed and signed by an associate physician, a physician assistant in a manner consistent with G.S. 90-18.1(e1), a nurse practitioner in a manner consistent with G.S. 90-18.2(e1), the chief medical officer of the hospital or facility in which the death occurred or a physician who performed an autopsy upon the decedent under the following circumstances: the individual has access to the medical history of the deceased; the individual has viewed the deceased at or after death; and the death is due to natural causes. In the absence of a treating physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner in charge of the patient's care at the time of death, the chief medical officer of the hospital or facility in which the death occurred, or a physician performing an autopsy, the death certificate may be completed by any other physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner who undertakes reasonable efforts to ascertain the events surrounding the patient's death. When specifically approved by the State Registrar, an electronic signature or facsimile signature of the physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner shall be acceptable. As used in this section, the term electronic signature has the same meaning as applies in G.S. 66-58.2. The physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner shall state the cause of death on the certificate in definite and precise terms. A certificate containing any indefinite terms or denoting only symptoms of disease or conditions resulting from disease as defined by the State Registrar, shall be returned to the person making the medical certification for correction and more definite statement.
(c1) A physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner completing and signing a medical certification in accordance with subsection (c) of this section shall not be liable in civil damages for any acts or omissions relating to the medical certification so long as the cause of death is determined in good faith using the individual's best clinical judgment and consistent with current guidance provided by the applicable licensing board, unless the acts or omissions amount to wanton conduct or intentional wrongdoing. This immunity is in addition to any other legal immunity from liability to which these individuals may be entitled.
(d) The physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or medical examiner making the medical certification as to the cause of death shall complete the medical certification no more than three days after death. The physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or medical examiner may, in appropriate cases, designate the cause of death as unknown pending an autopsy or upon some other reasonable cause for delay, but shall send the supplementary information to the local registrar as soon as it is obtained.
(e) In the case of death or fetal death without medical attendance, it shall be the duty of the funeral director or person acting as such and any other person having knowledge of the death to notify the local medical examiner of the death. The body shall not be disposed of or removed without the permission of the medical examiner. If there is no county medical examiner, the Chief Medical Examiner shall be notified.
(f) A physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner, who completes a death certificate in good faith, and without fraud or malice, shall be immune from civil liability or professional discipline. (1913, c. 109, ss. 7, 9; C.S., ss. 7094, 7096; 1949, c. 161, s. 1; 1955, c. 951, ss. 11, 12; 1957, c. 1357, s. 1; 1963, c. 492, ss. 1, 2, 4; 1969, c. 1031, s. 1; 1973, c. 476, s. 128; c. 873, s. 5; 1979, c. 95, ss. 2, 3; 1981, c. 187, s. 1; 1983, c. 891, s. 2; 1999-247, s. 1; 2011-197, s. 3; 2019-191, s. 44; 2019-207, s. 3.)