Next of kin will perform a wide variety of roles in relation to both the patient themselves and the health service.
Next of kin as a source of knowledge
Next of kin often possess a lot of knowledge which can be important in investigations, treatment and rehabilitation of the patient. Next of kin know the patient's background and have experience of how certain measures work.
The next of kin's knowledge of the patient is therefore not just important as regards the treatment, but can also provide a basis for a good collaboration with medical personnel.
Next of kin as care providers
Next of kin are often the patient's closest and most important care providers. On occasions, next of kin also act as the treatment provider's assistant, for example by assisting the patient in following up a recommended treatment. Next of kin also represent stability, irrespective of the development of an illness or the replacement of medical personnel.
Next of kin have no legal obligation to care for those closest to them if the patient is over 18 years of age. It is a voluntary role which requires the next of kin to be given sufficient information about the patient's medical situation, as well as the necessary support, respite, guidance and advice in relation to the tasks that must be performed.
The patient's representative
There may be situations where a patient is unable to look after their own interests. In such cases, the next of kin can take on the role of patient representative and act on behalf of the patient.
The role of patient representative can follow from:
- Parents representing their under-age children.
- Next of kin being appointed as a guardian or assistant guardian.
- Immediate next of kin representing the patient because the person concerned is unable to give their consent, because the circumstances warrant it or because the person concerned is unable to look after their own interests.
- There is a written power of attorney from the patient/the patient wants their next of kin to represent them.
As the patient's representative, you are entitled to receive information, to give your views on medical care, to appeal against decisions and to be involved in the provision of medical care.