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To enact a Federal Law, similar to the ones we've enacted in California and Illinois, that will safeguard the people we love even if we're not always physically there to protect them. The legislation, nicknamed the Next of Kin Bill, will require hospitals to make every reasonable effort (via simple steps outlined in the bill) to notify the next of kin of hospital patients who are unconscious or cannot give informed consent, within twenty-four hours of their admission.


The moment our legislators heard our story and that of so many other families, they agreed that we had to take action.   So we got together with Legislators in California and Illinois to create The Next of Kin Law.  With the help of health organizations, advocacy groups and celebrities, the Next of Kin Law was enacted in both states in 2000/01.  The law simply states that a hospital must make reasonable efforts to contact the next of kin of patients who come into a hospital unconscious or physically unable to give informed consent, within 24 hours of admission.  (read more about the state next of kin laws).
After my mother's death, we spoke the head of a local risk manager's association, who told us that the only reason hospitals notify families at all, is because it's the right thing to do. From the people we've spoken to, this seems to be the consensus. The problem is, staff members at busy, overburdened hospitals can forget to do the right thing.
This law protects the rights of hospital patients and their families, while reducing the hospital's own liability.  By providing a surrogate decision maker to make informed choices, hospitals will not have to guess what a patient's wishes might be.  When a family member has been allowed to make a treatment choice, the family is much less likely to sue, in the case of a negative medical outcome, than if they had not been able to make the informed decision for their loved one’s care.
The good news is that to date, 7 states have a next of kin statute on their books.  They include California, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Utah. Ohio and Hawaii.  The bad news is that 44 states are still unprotected. 
That's why we've decided to take the Next of Kin Bill federal.  We'll have news on that front in the coming months.
When hospitals nationwide began to ask us the best ways to perform notifications and to comply with the new California and Illinois laws, we realized that we needed to create an easy-to-use system, to provide hospitals with the background and materials they need to successfully deal with the challenges surrounding unconscious patients.
The Next of Kin Bill is also HIPAA friendly.  Hospitals and physicians who call a patient’s next of kin, are able to do so, in full accord with patient privacy standards set by HIPAA.  Click here to read what HIPAA says about next of kin notification.  You’ll also see how this bill will reduce hospital liability, from a risk manager’s perspective.
© 2011 Next of Kin Education Project                                                                                                                             Contact NOKEP