You may have heard the terms ‘next of kin’ and ‘power of attorney’ used by health professionals or friends and family. But what do these terms mean and who can be nominated?
Details about your ‘next of kin’ are likely to be taken if you are admitted to hospital in the UK. The person who you appoint as ‘next of kin’ will be contacted by the hospital with any updates related to your condition or care and informed when you can be collected after treatment is over. If you die, your ‘next of kin’ will likely be the first person informed of your death so that they can tell your other family and friends. Next of kin do not usually have legal rights to make decisions for an individual.
Appointing ‘Power of attorney’ is to give a person or multiple persons the right to legally make decisions for you if you are unable to. However this can only happen if ‘power of attorney’ has been appointed by you in the correct manner. ‘Lasting power of attorney’ can be applied in both health and financial contexts.
Next of kin is commonly thought to be a spouse or blood relation. However, within the UK, your next of kin can be any nominated person, irrespective of whether they are a friend or relative.
This is particularly important as LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be estranged from their biological family members and have families of choice comprising of friends, neighbours or people within LGBTQ+ communities Healthcare services must respect a person’s wishes regarding the inclusion of nominated next of kin. If you are unconscious when admitted to hospital NHS staff will try and find your closet living relative who they can get in touch with to appoint as next of kin.
Power of attorney can also be an appointee or appointees of your choice, but they must be registered. For more information on how to register your attorneys please see visit the UK GOV website.