Next of kin
Next of kin and cohabitation
In certain situations, for example, entering hospital or completing a life
insurance form, a person may be asked to give the name of her/his next of
kin. Next of kin is not defined by the law. However, in practice, hospitals
and other organisations have generally recognised spouses and close blood
relatives as next of kin but sometimes excluded cohabiting partners.
Organisations tend to be more flexible than they used to be. For example,
prisons will usually accept the name of a cohabiting partner as the most appropriate
person to contact if something happens to the prisoner.
Hospitals will usually ask a person to nominate a next of kin formally on
admission to hospital. A hospital will usually accept the person named as
next of kin. Most hospitals recognise that someone's partner is probably
the closest person, whatever the gender.
Nobody is entitled to give consent to medical treatment for another adult
unless that person is unconscious or unable to give consent through mental
incapacity. However, in practice, doctors do usually discuss decisions with
the patient's family and this should not usually exclude a cohabiting partner.
If an organisation refuses to accept the name of a cohabiting partner, there
is little the client can do about this other than press for a change of policy.
Next of kin and civil partnerships
A civil partner always has authority to act as next of kin.