Sunday, 11 January 2009

Next of Kin

The issue of whether or not you would be recognised as your partner’s next of kin in the event of an emergency is something that worries many cohabiting couples. Would you be given information about your partner’s condition? And would you even be allowed to see them in hospital? Might your family even argue about who was your next of kin?

Despite the widespread use of the phrase, ‘next of kin’ is not defined by the law. Therefore, there is no reason that your partner shouldn’t be treated as your ‘next of kin’ despite the fact that you are not married. However, in practice hospitals have generally recognised spouses and close blood relatives as next of kin and have sometimes excluded cohabiting partners. This has been more common with same-sex partners, but has also happened to male-female partners.

As attitudes have changed and families have become more diverse, most hospitals are more flexible. The policy in most NHS trusts is to ask you to nominate your next of kin formally on your admission to hospital.

However, if you are unable to say, because, for example, you are unconscious, they will try to work out who is the person closest to you. They may get this wrong, particularly if your personal circumstances are confusing or "unusual" (for example, if you consider your best friend to be your next of kin, rather than your dad).


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