When a person dies, it’s typical for loved ones to make funeral and burial arrangements. But when no one takes custody of a dead body, they are handed over to the state for disposal. According to NamUs, a federal database with information on missing persons and unidentified remains cases, there are 46 unclaimed bodies in North Carolina, with 34 found in Forsyth County.

When is a body considered unclaimed in North Carolina?

State law requires any person in possession of a body, aside from a licensed funeral director, to “make reasonable efforts to contact relatives of the deceased or other persons who may wish to claim the body for final disposition.” According to state law, a body is considered unclaimed when:

No individual notifies the person in possession of the dead body within 10 days of the date of death that they wish to dispose of the body; individuals who have expressed interest in disposing of the body have stopped communicating with the person in possession of the body for five days; at least 10 days have passed since the date of death and the person has made reasonable efforts to contact individuals to arrange for the body’s disposal.

What happens to unclaimed bodies in North Carolina?

If a body is unclaimed after a medical examiner case, it is transported to Raleigh for cremation, where the cremains will be delivered to the N.C. Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, according to the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office. The cremains will then eventually be transported to the North Carolina coast for burial at sea. If a body goes unclaimed due to a family not being able to afford burial or cremation services, they can release the body to the state, revoking legal access to the remains. Unidentified corpses are held by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for an indefinite period of time.

Can unclaimed bodies be used for educational purposes?

If a body is not claimed within 10 days, it can be delivered to the N.C. Commission of Anatomy, responsible for ensuring there are enough human bodies for the study of anatomy at medical schools in the state.

Before death, bodies can be donated to a state medical school by reaching out to body donation programs directly.

This article appears courtesy of our media partner The Charlotte Observer.

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