In today’s edition of ‘The Docked Leaf’, we are focusing on the ‘Clinical Law Southampton’ podcast, or ‘CLAWS’ for short (which just appeals to my sense of humour; it really tickles me!)
It was produced by Mr Robert Wheeler, who is the Director of the Department of Clinical Law at University Hospital Southampton.
Let Me Read Your Mind
I know what you’re probably thinking at this point, because almost certainly I was thinking the same thing.
When I found the podcast, I thought, ‘This is going to end one of two ways:
- At best, I’m probably not going to understand the content because I have no legal knowledge and I don’t understand legal terminology.
- At worst, it sounds kind of boring.
Let me put your mind at ease. Both of those assumptions are entirely unfounded and completely and utterly wrong.
Not only is this podcast incredibly accessible, it’s also fascinating.
The podcast is accessible on a number of levels. Firstly, it’s short.
Each episode is between four and seven minutes long, so it really doesn’t take up very much of your time at all. There are only 20 episodes in the entire series, all recorded in 2019.
As well as being short, the podcasts are also accessible in terms of the language that’s used. Robert doesn’t use ‘legalese’, nor are you expected to have a medical degree.
He explains how the law has been interpreted by the courts and often uses real-life examples. The language is plain, simple and easy to understand.
Specific Episode: ‘Next of Kin’
All of the episodes are informative and interesting but the one I want to specifically focus on in this post is titled ‘Next of Kin’ because this is something you consider when making your End of Life Plan.
The episode is five and a half minutes long and has many useful nuggets but there are three main takeaways in particular I want to highlight here.
Takeaway Number 1
“Your Next of Kin is whoever you decide it is.”
It’s completely your choice. Whomever you choose is your next of kin. It’s not dependent on a blood relationship, or a legal relationship, or any of those kinds of things at all. Whoever you decide is your next of kin, is your next of kin.
Takeaway Number 2
“The term, ‘Next of Kin’ has no legal status as it is undefined in English law.”
The term, ‘Next of Kin’, has no legal definition at all. It has been given a colloquial definition that we all adhere to and believe we understand.
Actually, a next of kin is simply the person you feel is closest to you and the person you would want informed should anything happen to you.
But from a legal perspective, it doesn’t mean anything – that person doesn’t have any power at all in terms of being able to speak on your behalf, should you be unable to do so for yourself.
Takeaway Number 3
“Because ‘Next of Kin’ is not a defined role in law, it commands no power.”
Following on from Takeaway Number 2, the actual role of ‘Next of Kin’ commands no power because it’s not a legal term and isn’t defined in law.
You might be thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness. What does that actually mean? Who gets to decide things if I lose capacity?’
And it’s on this point that Robert pretty much the podcast, by pointing out that there is an existing mechanism for that called Lasting Power of Attorney.
He actually ends it with noting that the power we give to our Attorney through our LPA grants them power that the Next of Kin can never have.
Of course, many people when choosing their Attorney may cite the person they would call their Next of Kin because one doesn’t negate the other; more often than not the named Attorney and Next of Kin would be the same person (not always but frequently).
The important thing to note is that from a legal perspective, a Next of Kin has no power at all. But you can grant somebody, including your Next of Kin, with that power by making a Lasting Power of Attorney.
I’ll finish by pointing out the obvious; I could never write, speak or communicate these points half as well as Robert.
I cannot recommend the podcast highly enough and would strongly encourage you to check it via any of the following:
I really think you will enjoy – and learn – from any episode you listen to and with each one only lasting four to seven minutes, it really is worth your time.
Until next time, take care.