California hospitals must consult with your next of kin if you become incapacitated or have an accident. The person the hospital contacts can make healthcare decisions since you cannot speak for yourself. However, hospitals must do this only if the state has a next-of-kin statute.
The next-of-kin statute in California
California is one of 45 states, along with the District of Columbia, that has a next-of-kin statute. It makes it possible for a surrogate chosen from your next of kin to make medical decisions on your behalf. The surrogate will make these decisions even if they weren’t chosen before you became incapacitated.
A person can get chosen as next-of-kin without being a blood relative. Your spouse, domestic partner or close friend can serve as your next of kin. The list also includes adult children, parents, adult relatives, siblings and grandchildren. In some cases, the person who brings you into the hospital can serve as the next of kin.
When there’s no next-of-kin law
Hospitals don’t have to consult with your next of kin if the state doesn’t have a next-of-kin statute. That means the hospital can make medical decisions on your behalf, no matter what your family wants.
If your state doesn’t have a next-of-kin statute, an advanced directive makes your wishes known and prevents them from making decisions on your behalf. You can include this as part of your estate planning. An advanced directive is a healthcare directive that appoints a surrogate to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them. As long as the advanced directive is in place before you become incapacitated, the hospital must consult your surrogate.
It’s never a bad idea to prepare a plan in case something happens to you. Even though California has a next-of-kin statute in place to protect patients, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska and New Jersey don’t, so if you travel to one of those states, having an advance directive in place could be important to you.