System For Recording DeathsAntiquated and Inefficient

System For Recording Deaths Antiquated and Inefficient

Editorial, StarNews Online
December 1, 2014

In the year 2014, there is no excuse for North Carolina's system for recording deaths to be stuck in the past.

Abundant and easily accessible technology should make it easier, but the state Vital Records office is still working with a paper-heavy process that dates back to 1930. It took until 2010 for North Carolina to switch to an electronic system for birth records, and now it is time to update the antiquated death-records system.

State Registrar Catherine Ryan is among officials who brought the technology void to a committee of state lawmakers. Now it's their turn to act.

This is no small issue. With 83,000 deaths per year, a system that is dependent on paper is labor-intensive and creates another layer of bureaucracy for grieving families to have to go through as they close out the estate of a loved one. According to the Associated Press, it can take three months for a death to be recorded by the Vital Records office.

That can delay some estate matters, but it also may take longer for state health officials to receive cause-of-death information that is important in analyzing epidemics or identifying health patterns.


Computers have changed the way most of us do business, but when it comes to recording deaths in North Carolina, it's all paper and snail mail until it is entered in the state's vital records computer system. An official death certificate changes hands so many times that the odds of errors also increase.


But this is the 21st century. Most other states already use an electronic system for recording deaths. North Carolina needs to leave the 20th century behind, because it does its people a disservice by using an outdated process.