Refusals or delays in certifying patient deaths have real consequences, and the North Carolina Medical Board (NCMB) frequently receives phone calls and complaints from patients’ families, EMS directors, funeral home personnel and others about refusals and/or unacceptable delays in physician completion of death certificates.
Most often these concerns relate to an unattended death from natural causes. Most of these decedents have an established relationship with a physician, but for a variety of reasons, the identified physician is reluctant to certify the death. For example, the decedent may not have seen the physician for several months, or the physician may have been providing treatment for stable, conditions that posed no apparent immediate threat to the patient’s life (hypertension, diabetes, etc.). Or, the physician may simply feel he or she has no exact idea why the patient died.
Regardless of the reason, delaying the completion of a death certificate or refusing to sign a death certificate creates unnecessary complications with funeral arrangements, estate proceedings and other legal and personal matters. This makes an already difficult time for surviving family members and other loved ones even more so.
Please review these Frequently Asked Questions about death certificates and your important role in completing them.