Part 5. Disposition of Unclaimed Bodies.

130A-415. Unclaimed bodies; bodies claimed by the Lifeguardianship Council of The Arc of North Carolina, Inc.; disposition.

(a) Any person, other than a person licensed as a funeral director or funeral service licensee in this State, including officers, employees, and agents of the State or of any unit of local government in the State, hospitals, nursing homes, or other institutions, having physical possession of a dead body shall make reasonable efforts to contact relatives of the deceased or other persons who may wish to claim the body for final disposition. If the body remains unclaimed for final disposition, the person having possession shall notify the Commission of Anatomy. Upon request of the Commission of Anatomy, the person having possession shall deliver the dead body to the Commission of Anatomy at a time and place specified by the Commission of Anatomy or shall permit the Commission of Anatomy to take and remove the body.

(a1) A dead body shall be deemed unclaimed if either of the following conditions apply:

(1) No individual notifies the person in possession of the dead body within 10 days of the date of death that the individual wishes to dispose of the dead body.

(2) All individuals who have expressed interest in arranging for disposition of the dead body have (i) ceased communicating with the person in possession of the dead body for five days, (ii) at least 10 days have passed from the date of death, and (iii) the person in possession of the dead body has used reasonable efforts to contact all individuals interested in arranging for final disposition.

(b) Unless the provisions of subsection (j) of this section apply, all dead bodies not claimed for final disposition within 10 days of the decedent's death may be received and delivered by the Commission of Anatomy pursuant to the authority contained in G.S. 130A-33.30 and this Part and in accordance with the rules of the Commission of Anatomy. Upon receipt of a body by the Commission of Anatomy all interests in and rights to the unclaimed dead body shall vest in the Commission of Anatomy. The recipient to which the Commission of Anatomy delivers the body shall pay all expenses for the embalming and delivery of the body and for the reasonable expenses arising from efforts to notify relatives or others.

(b1) The 10-day periods referenced in subdivisions (1) and (2) of subsection (a1) of this section may be shortened by the county director of social services upon determination that a dead body will not be claimed for final disposition within the 10-day period.

(c) Unless the provisions of subsection (j) of this section apply, if the Commission of Anatomy declines to receive a dead body, the person with possession shall inform the director of social services of the county that is responsible for the expense of the final disposition of the decedent. Upon notification, all interests in and rights to the abandoned dead body shall vest in the director of social services of that county, who then shall arrange for prompt final disposition of the body, either by cremation, hydrolysis, or burial.

(c1) Reasonable costs of disposition and of efforts made to notify relatives and others shall be considered funeral expenses and shall be paid in accordance with G.S. 28A-19-6 and G.S. 28A-19-8. If those expenses cannot be satisfied from the decedent's estate, they shall be borne by the decedent's county of residence. If the deceased is not a resident of this State, or if the county of residence is unknown, those expenses shall be borne by the county in which the death occurred or, if the county of residence and death of the decedent are unknown, the county where the deceased was located.

(d) No autopsy shall be performed on an unclaimed body without the written consent of the Commission of Anatomy except that written consent is not required for an autopsy performed pursuant to Part 2 of this Article.

(e) Due caution shall be taken to shield the unclaimed body from public view.

(f) Notwithstanding this section, an unclaimed body does not mean a dead body for which the deceased has made a gift pursuant to Part 3A of this Article.

(g) Nothing in this Part requires the officers, employees, or agents of a county to notify the Commission of Anatomy regarding the bodies of minors who were in the custody of the county at the time of death and whose final disposition will be arranged by the county. In the absence of notification, the expenses of the final disposition shall be a charge upon the county having custody.

(h) This Part does not apply to bodies within the jurisdiction of the medical examiner under G.S. 130A-383 or G.S. 130A-384.

(i) In addition to the other duties of the Commission of Anatomy, when the Commission of Anatomy is notified by the Lifeguardianship Council of The Arc of North Carolina, Inc., that the Council intends to claim a body, the Commission shall release the body to the Council. The Lifeguardianship Council shall notify the Commission of Anatomy within 24 hours after death of its intent to claim a body for burial or other humane and caring disposition.

(j) Any funeral director or funeral service licensee doing business within the State having physical possession of a dead body shall make reasonable efforts to contact relatives of the deceased or other persons who may wish to claim the body for final disposition. If the body remains unclaimed for final disposition for 10 days, or if the right to authorize the type, method, place, and disposition, of the dead body is waived under G.S. 130A-420(b1) or G.S. 90-210.124(b), and if all persons who have expressed interest in arranging for the disposition for the dead body have ceased communication with the person in possession of the dead body for five days, the dead body shall be deemed abandoned. If the funeral director or funeral service licensee receives the dead body from a person or entity listed in subsection (a) of this section, the 10-day period shall run concurrently with any period imposed on that person or entity. Any person having possession of an abandoned dead body shall notify the Commission of Anatomy. Upon request of the Commission of Anatomy, the person having possession of the abandoned dead body shall deliver the abandoned dead body to the Commission of Anatomy at a time and place specified by the Commission of Anatomy or shall permit the Commission of Anatomy to take and remove the abandoned dead body.

(k) If the Commissioner of Anatomy fails to request delivery of the abandoned dead body within two days of receipt of the notification required by subsection (j) of this section, or if the Commissioner of Anatomy declines delivery of the abandoned dead body, the funeral director or funeral services licensee shall notify the director of social services of the county where the abandoned dead body is located. The notice to the director of social services shall contain a sworn statement that (i) the body is an abandoned dead body, (ii) reasonable efforts have been made to inform relatives and others of the death, and (iii) the Commission of Anatomy has failed to request or has declined delivery of the abandoned dead body. Upon receipt of the sworn statement, the director of social services shall arrange for final disposition of the abandoned dead body and all interests in and rights to the abandoned dead body shall vest in the director of social services, who shall then arrange for prompt final disposition of the abandoned dead body by cremation, hydrolysis, or burial. Upon payment by the director of social services for final disposition of the abandoned dead body, the director shall have a claim of reasonable funeral expenses which shall be paid in accordance with G.S. 28A-19-6 and G.S. 28A-19-8. If those expenses cannot be satisfied from the decedent's estate, they shall be borne by the decedent's county of residence. If the decedent is not a resident of this State, or if the county of residence is unknown, those expenses shall be borne by the county in which the death occurred, or if the county of residence and death of the decedent is unknown, the county where the deceased was located. (1975, c. 694, s. 3; 1977, c. 458; 1983, c. 891, s. 2; 1987, c. 470; 1989, c. 222; c. 770, s. 75; 2008-153, s. 7; 2018-47, s. 10(b); 2018-78, s. 21.)