A week after his death, my father’s few possessions came back from the care home, kept there in case of ‘infection’. Yet I was told that he had died in his sleep.
The things I’d packed on January 5 when he first went into the home — clothes, family photographs, a favourite cushion, a special simple ‘Alzheimer’s’ music player, the little teddy bear mascot he liked so much — all made me intensely sad.
Yet in truth, Dad had been visibly fading for months. His cough — a result of long-standing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — was worse, and so were his frustrated moods and confusion, caused by vascular dementia.
You long for the person you love to have peace, yet the finality of death makes you cry. But here on my desk, his official death certificate ignites that sorrow into anger.
Believing all along that we were being lied to, he has (in a strange way) been proved right. I do not believe in conspiracy theories. Nor do I have any doubt that a pandemic called Covid-19 afflicted the world more than a year ago, causing fear and death. And yet, confronting the timeline of my own dear father’s last weeks on this earth, I feel as bewildered as I am angry
This is not because Ted Mooney contracted coronavirus in the very good (and expensive, it must be said) care home three miles from our house, as statistics will now state.
Because he did not. Yet the principal cause of death is set down officially as Covid-19 — and that, in my view, is a bizarre and unacceptable untruth.
You read of such things, but — dazed by an accumulation of figures, as we have all been for nearly a year — you can fail to take them on board.
The nightly shroud-waving and shocking close-ups of pain imposed on us by the TV news bewildered and terrified the population into eager compliance with lockdowns.
We were invited to ‘save the NHS’ and to grieve for strangers — the real-life loved ones behind those shocking death counts.
Why would the public imagine what I now fear, namely that the way Covid-19 death statistics are compiled might make the numbers seem greater than they are?
It is a bitter irony to our family that, because of the ways in which Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics list data related to Covid and deaths, we are deprived of the happy certainty that Dad died peacefully in his sleep.
Bel Mooney is pictured with her daughter Kitty, son Daniel, parents Gladys and Edward and grandchildren Chloe and Barnaby
Equally ironic is that this blameless man — 99 and very frail — had always refused to accept coronavirus existed, even though I had tried patiently two or three times a week to explain that it did.
‘What is this plague?’ he’d ask crossly, peering (blind in one eye, macular degeneration in the other) at the TV news. And now he is just another one of their statistics. Believing all along that we were being lied to, he has (in a strange way) been proved right.
I do not believe in conspiracy theories. Nor do I have any doubt that a pandemic called Covid-19 afflicted the world more than a year ago, causing fear and death.
And yet, confronting the timeline of my own dear father’s last weeks on this earth, I feel as bewildered as I am angry.
Why would a country wish to skew its mortality figures by, I believe, wrongly certifying deaths? What has been going on?
One day the truth may reveal panic and ineptitude rather than wilful deception. But I believe the way ‘Covid deaths’ have been counted is a national scandal.
In our family (as in many others), things had reached crisis point before Christmas because my mother, at 96, simply could not cope with taking care of Dad at home.
Ted Mooney is pictured as a young soldier
She had tried for more than two years but her health was suffering. We agreed to give him one last happy family Christmas — four generations in our home, noisy with the excitement of the great-grandchildren he adored.
I had chosen a local care home with a specialist dementia floor and an excellent reputation — and (they were proud to tell me) no Covid cases at all in 2020.
On New Year’s Eve, Dad went there for a Covid test. His 99th birthday was the next day — and then (the test being negative), on January 5, my husband and I took him for what he thought was respite care, to give Mum a break.
After that, things moved quickly. Two days later, my husband saw Dad in the special visiting ‘pod’ created in a ground-floor room so that patient and care worker would be behind glass.
He seemed cheerful, though he couldn’t see or hear much behind the screen. But he joked about ‘leaving all my money’ to the sweet young (female) care worker! Same old Dad. I made an appointment to visit the next week — but before then, the shutters came down.
Obeying the latest local authority rules, the home closed itself off to visitors. I felt terrible.
On January 12, they tested Dad for Covid again. It was negative.
On January 26, I had an email from the experienced male nurse in charge of the dementia patients, saying that once again Dad had tested negative. But a phone call from another care worker gave disappointing news that ‘Mr Ted’ had refused the vaccine.
I was rather frustrated — but Dad could be difficult and I could easily imagine him irritably rejecting a needle for something he didn’t believe in.
On the next day, January 27, we learned there had been an outbreak of Covid in the home among staff and residents, although the home had clearly taken all the Covid precautions it could.
I was in constant phone contact with helpful care workers who told me Dad was spending most of his time in his room, sleeping a lot and off his food. My heart warned me he was reaching the end of his life.
On Monday, February 8, Dad’s care worker called to say she had summoned a GP because he was ‘chesty’.
As he had COPD, this was no surprise. The GP wanted to test for Covid again but Dad refused. I think he’d just had enough by then.
So antibiotics were prescribed and the care worker telephoned again early that evening to reassure me he had gone quietly to bed.
My father did not wake up. The 8am call on February 9 (please note, 14 days after the last negative Covid test) informed us that Dad had died in his sleep.
I was (in truth) relieved that at last all his discomfort was at an end and he was at peace. My mother was tired and sad; my two adult children cried; we all wished we could have said goodbye.
That night, the GP who had seen Dad the day before and was called to certify his death kindly telephoned to express his condolences. He told me that, apart from the chestiness, Dad seemed ‘well cared for’.
Then I asked what he had put as the cause of death.
‘Covid-19,’ he replied.
When I challenged this, he explained that it was because there had been deaths from Covid on the dementia floor . . . so they consider it reasonable to assume . . .
‘But Doctor,’ I protested, ‘an assumption isn’t a diagnosis.’
He sounded sympathetic but uncomfortable, as he acknowledged my point and assured me that all Dad’s underlying health conditions were also recorded. But as the secondary cause of death.
He seemed cheerful, though he couldn’t see or hear much behind the screen. But he joked about ‘leaving all my money’ to the sweet young (female) care worker! Same old Dad. Ted Mooney is pictured above with daughter Bel on Ainsdale Beach, Liverpool in 1954
I do not blame that perfectly decent and sympathetic GP — he was just doing his job. But my deep disquiet became worse.
For when I registered Dad’s death by telephone (as you have to these days), the registrar told me there had been very many other cases like ours where ‘the deceased’ had not tested positive for Covid, yet it was recorded as the cause of death.
They agreed that, yes, it must distort the national figures — ‘and yet the strangest thing is that every winter we record countless deaths from flu, and this winter there have been none. Not one!’
So, I asked, did the registrar wonder if deaths from flu were being misdiagnosed and lumped together with Covid deaths? The answer was a puzzled ‘Yes’.
The funeral director said the same thing, saying they had lost count of the number of families upset by the same issue.
I imagined daughters and sons, husbands and wives all over the country with the melancholy task of registering the death of a loved one — all the time believing they had been told a lie.
Somehow it adds insult to injury — nothing will bring your family member back, yet you feel a visceral objection to them being listed as what my poor father might have called a ‘plague victim’.
To start to disentangle some of these mysteries, you have to understand that normally two doctors are needed to certify a death, one of whom knows the patient.
But early last spring, this changed; for Covid-19, the certification of death could be made by one doctor — and from March 2020, ‘Covid deaths’ included all cases where Covid-19 was put on the death certificate, even if the person had not tested positive.
You don’t have to be a Countdown presenter to see that this doesn’t add up at all.
Yet as the distinguished retired pathologist John Lee wrote: ‘I can think of no time in my medical career when it has been more important to have accurate diagnosis of a disease and an understanding of precisely why patients have died of it.’
And how could we begin to understand the frightening new Covid-19 if, from the beginning, nobody was bothering too much about accuracy?
How many of the 30,851 (as of January 15) care home resident deaths with Covid-19 on the certificate (32.4 per cent of all deaths so far) were based on an assumption, like that of my father? And what has that done to our national psyche?
When it comes to the data, confusion reigns. First of all, there are two different sources of statistics, often spoken of as if they are interchangeable: those compiled by Public Health England (PHE) and those compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The young Ted Mooney who rode his Army motorcycle through the blackout carrying dispatches at the start of World War II always believed in the family as the bedrock of society and his own life
Although many people don’t realise it, PHE’s statistics are not of ‘Covid deaths’ but of the number of deaths of people who died within 28 days of having a positive Covid test.
These statistics do not mean the person died of Covid — although it might be likely that they did — just that they died following a positive test. The cause of death could well have been something else.
The ONS statistics reflect deaths ‘involving’ Covid or ‘due to’ Covid — essentially, any death where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate — but they do not take into account whether the deceased had ever tested positive for the virus.
My father will now become one of these ONS statistics, even though I don’t believe that he ever had Covid-19.
So why is this going on? Why do the ‘Covid death’ statistics not require both Covid to be listed on the death certificate and for the deceased to have had a positive test, for the sake of certainty?
And why have the families heartbroken and shocked to have Covid-19 on their loved ones’ death certificates — after the terrible distress of being forbidden care home visits — not had any word of explanation for this?
Yes, we can be flummoxed by statistics. But it is vital to examine them rather than blindly go on feeding the nation’s fear.
I’m no expert but it’s obvious to me that it is essential to look beyond what is recorded on death certificates — and to recognise that none of the official numbers tell the full story.
Most people will accept the narrative they are fed, so panicky governments here and in Europe witnessed the harsh measures enacted in totalitarian China and jumped into lockdown.
Headlines about Covid deaths tolled like the knell that would bring doomsday to us all. Fear stalked our empty streets.
Politicians parroted the frankly ridiculous aim of ‘zero Covid’ and shut down the economy, while most British people agreed that lockdown was essential and (astonishingly to me, as a patriotic Brit) even wanted more restrictions.
For what? Lies on death certificates? Never mind the grim toll of lives ruined, suicides, schools closed, rising inequality, depression, cancelled hospital treatments, cancer patients in a torture of waiting, poverty, economic devastation, loneliness, families kept apart, and so on. How many lives have been lost as a direct result of lockdown?
We can join in a national chorus of shock and horror at reaching the 120,000 death toll — which is surely certain to have been totally skewed all along. But what is worse than the sad deaths in care homes of people like Dad, who would have died anyway because it was their time? I’ll tell you.
During the lockdown last spring, according to the British Medical Journal, there was a 1,493 per cent increase in cases of children taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital with abusive head injuries.
Sheltered folk won’t know that some children are safer at school than at home. Did the appallingly intransigent Left-wing National Education Union know or care about that terrible result of lockdown, when it continued to urge school closures? I doubt it.
When I told her about my shock and anger at what was on her grandfather’s death certificate, my daughter Kitty said bleakly: ‘If this has happened all through the epidemic and all the stats have been skewed, then our kids’ education and mental health, and our family lives, have been brought almost to the point of disaster . . . for what? And why?’
This is the key question.
It is not for me to supply the answer — and none of this will bring my father back. He was old and sick, it was time for him to die and I wish that as a society we could face up to the fact of mortality.
There is indeed ‘a time to be born and a time to die’ as the book of Ecclesiastes says in the Bible, and although I would have loved for my dad to die with me holding his hand, it was not to be. Such things must be accepted. But we do not have to accept lies told in our name.
The young Ted Mooney who rode his Army motorcycle through the blackout carrying dispatches at the start of World War II always believed in the family as the bedrock of society and his own life.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about all this is that families have been kept apart — and obeyed the most irrational, changing rules at the whim of government — because they believed in the statistics. They succumbed to fear, which his generation rejected in that war fought for freedom.
Dad (God rest his soul) would be angry. And so am I.