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A widely used term which has no statutory definition in the UK. In practice, the general rule is to regard spouses and blood relatives as next-of-kin. 

The Mental Health Act 1983 defines a list of certain people who can be treated as the “nearest relative” of a patient. A “nearest relative” has a number of important powers and functions, including the right to discharge a patient who has been formally detained in hospital, make an application for a person to be admitted for assessment, treatment or guardianship and also to object to applications for treatment or guardianship being made by a social worker. Only certain categories of people can become a “nearest relative”, the first being spouses, followed by unmarried heterosexual couples who have lived together for 6 months. A same-sex partner can only become a nearest relative after a period of 5 years.

A person who is “next in bloodline” to a particular person, who would be called upon for certain decisions.

The next-of-kin in the US is generally defined by state law. For example, the order of priority in Virginia (based on autopsy permission) is: spouse, then adult son or daughter, then either parent, then an adult brother or sister, then a guardian of the decedent at the time of death, then any other person authorised or under legal obligation to dispose of the body.


Law & medicine A term “…with two meanings
1. nearest blood relations according to the law of consanguity and.
2. those entitled to take under statutory distribution of intestate's estates…(which) may include a relationship existing by  marriage, and  embrace persons, who …bear no relation of kinship at all'.
References in periodicals archive ?
We could have next-of-kin in Guam, England or Mexico, all over the world,'' Hernandez said.
3) In such cases, the deceased person's next-of-kin or the executor of his or her estate could file a complaint with the HPCSA, and disciplinary action could be taken against the medical practitioner concerned for unethical conduct in terms of Rule 12, (1) but there would be no legal action for damages.
The following categories of disclosures concerning deceased persons will be considered: (i) disclosures in death certificates; (ii) disclosures as a result of a court order; (iii) disclosures in the public interest; (iv) disclosures without the written consent of the deceased's next-of-kin or the executor of his or her estate; (v) disclosures to endangered third parties; and (vi) disclosures to insurance companies.
Legally, even if the disclosure is not in the public interest, the next-of-kin of deceased persons or the executors of their estates may not bring a legal action against a medical practitioner who discloses the HIV status of such persons.
Except under the circumstances justified under Rule 12 or in terms of the law, disclosures about a deceased person's HIV status by a medical practitioner will be unethical if made without consent in writing by the next-of-kin or executor of the deceased's estate.
In law, the next-of-kin or executor of deceased person may not institute legal proceedings against a doctor who breaches the confidentiality rule regarding the HIV status of the deceased after the latter's death.
There is no legal liability on a medical practitioner who divulges confidential information about a deceased person to an insurance company in situations where the deceased has not given written consent in advance, or the next-of-kin of the deceased or executor of the estate have not consented, or the insurance company has not proceeded in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act or a court order.
It said: "We are searching for the next-of-kin of one of the pilots of Hampden P1206, RAF 49Squadron Scampton.
With the new law, the first of its kind in the nation, next-of-kin may continue to override the intent of the deceased to donate, but they first will be counseled through a process requiring a signed acknowledgment of the intent of the deceased.
This law gives more power to the donor over their own body, establishing a process that will help next-of-kin understand their role in honoring the wishes of their loved ones," says the law's sponsor, Sean Faircloth, Maine State Representative, District 117/Bangor.
The names of the passengers and crew will be released when all next-of-kin have been notified.
As an interim relief SAS will, regardless of the cause of the accident, pay a sum of USD 25,000 per passenger to next-of-kin.

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