The question ‘who is your next of kin’ came up for me recently when a family member was in hospital.

When you are in a hospital in the emergency department or admitted to a ward this question is always asked, so that they have contact details of a close family member. A married couple or those living within a civil partnership would consider each other their next of kin.

Kinsmen, kinsfolk and kindred are all words that are used to indicate a bloodline connection.

Being a person’s next of kin however, does not mean that you have the right to make decisions and deal with their affairs, unless you have legal power of attorney, which is split into two types: Financial and Health and Welfare. Without this power a next of kin has no legal rights and cannot make decisions on another person’s behalf. 

Recently another elderly family member has had an end of life care plan prepared, which is intended to help medical staff understand the personal wishes of the patient they are treating. 

A next of kin is purely a contact who may or may not be related to them, who can be contacted when they need assistance, such as when they are sick.

I use an Apple iPhone which offers me the facility to record the details of an emergency contact, which is accessible from the locked screen. This facility is familiar to those working in the emergency services and reassures me that my next of kin would be contactable if I were in an accident. Not everyone owns a smartphone though, so these details might not be so easily found on a person, who did not have one, or did not have their phone with them.

Social Embers have produced a next of kin card that can be kept in a wallet, purse or pocket, that gives the same information as the iPhone does. 

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