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Jun 11 2014

More problems with death certificates Some certifiers missing new requirements

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Image for More problems with death certificates Some certifiers missing new requirements The North Carolina Medical Board has noted an increasing number of inquiries and complaints from families and funeral homes about improper and delayed completion of death certificates. It appears that many of the problems with improperly completed certificates arise from the certifying physician, PA or NP failing to complete new required sections of the official death certificate used in North Carolina.

The NC Department of Vital Records, the state branch that registers and maintains records of deaths, adopted the new death certificate form effective January 1. The new form requires additional information that was not previously requested on death certificates. This new information must be recorded by ticking the appropriate boxes in a section immediately following the section where cause of death is provided. Individuals who complete death certificates should also be aware that cause of death is now referred to as “medical certification” on the new form. All required information must be completed for the certificate to be valid.

I have written on the licensee’s professional obligation to complete death certificates in a timely manner before, but it is worth repeating. Properly certifying a patient’s death is a final service licensees can, and should, perform for patients when it is needed. State law (NCGS §130A 115) requires that death certificates be completed within three days of receiving the request.

Failing to complete a death certificate because one is not absolutely certain about the cause of death is unacceptable. In these situations, remember that the licensee completing the death certificate is only asked to provide a cause of death “to the best of [his or her] knowledge,” not to a medical certainty (which may not be possible in all instances.) As I have stated before, the Medical Board has no interest in pursuing disciplinary action against licensees who certify deaths in good faith and to the best of their abilities.

The best remedy for licensees’ apparent confusion regarding death certificates, particularly regarding the requirements and layout of the new form, is education. Please take a few minutes to complete the free online training offered through the NC Department of Vital Records. The training thoroughly explores the new death certificate form and covers the new required information. See the box below for instructions on accessing the training. If you still have questions, after completing the training, contact Sharon Montour at Vital Records by email, Sharon.montour@dhhs.nc.gov, or by telephone at 919-792-5818.

Vital Records is able to provide on-site training session to certifiers in group practices. To schedule a workshop or lunch-and-learn on the new death certificate form, contact Tamma Hill at tamma.hill@dhhs.nc.gov or by telephone at 919-792-5832.

Finally, in the interest of helping licensees with their obligations to correctly complete the new death certificate form, we have dedicated the opposite page to showing the new form. Sections that must be completed by the individual certifying the death are highlighted. The section where new required information must be provided is circled.

I hope this information helps to dispel confusion regarding the new form, and assists licensees with the task of properly certifying deaths.

This document highlights the new required section on the NC death certificate form.

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Death certificate training
This free online training is designed to familiarize medical certifiers with the new form, including new required information. To access the training:
1. Click here
2. Enter user ID “vrdeath” and password “death” (do not use quotation marks when entering user name and password)
3. Click on the “Medical Certifiers” tab to begin the training

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