My father spent two of the last days of his life alone and sad in the emergency room – for no good reason. This madness must stop | Adrian Chiles

Tthere are good things and there are bad things. The trick is to enjoy the good things as much as possible and do everything you can to prevent the bad things from becoming worse than they need to be. Death is such a bad thing. In fact, I call it: death is the worst of all. So anything that can make it less unbearable is worth considering.

I wrote about my father’s death because I couldn’t concentrate on any other subject under the circumstances. I wasn’t sure if this was the right thing to do. It took an overshare to 11 out of 10 on the Spinal Tap amps. And when I realized that it had taken away some of my pain, I felt a little guilty that I was blessed with a platform like this to share my thoughts, while 99.9% of survivors don’t have anything like that.

But I’m afraid I have to write some more, because I’m haunted by the memory of something that happened three weeks before Dad died. Something that made everything worse. Something that was completely unnecessary and, as far as I can tell, just plain insane.

I received a call one Sunday evening from a nurse at the community hospital where my father had been since a fall at home left him with a broken shoulder. On the first night there, much to my dismay, he had fallen again, but the GP at this hospital checked him and found, apart from some bruising, that no further damage had been done.

Now the poor man had fallen again, trying to get from his chair into the next bed. Nothing to worry about, the nurse thought, but she said she would ask the doctor after hours to examine him. OK. I slept no more restlessly that night than any other the last night. But in the morning I woke up at 6am to a voice message telling me that he had been taken to the emergency room of the nearest major hospital, half an hour away, at midnight.

Naturally, I assumed the worst: that a heart attack or stroke or some such catastrophe had occurred. But no, it was almost worse than that. It turned out that the GP had decided on this course of action outside office hours as a precaution. So it happened that, as a precaution, he was taken alone and without a hearing aid along potholed country roads to an emergency room in the middle of the night, where he would spend the next 36 hours as a precaution. miserable, sad, confused and mostly alone. Finally, after a day of increasingly heated advocacy on my part, he was fired from wherever he came.

Before this turn of events, during the three weeks he had spent in the community hospital, his health had at least not deteriorated, although he had made little progress. Over the next three weeks he continued to deteriorate and died. Given his weakness, it is entirely possible that this would have happened anyway. But I’m struggling to come to terms with the fact that two of his few remaining days on earth were spent in completely unnecessary distress.

I’m sure there are doctors out there who will read this and ask how I, as a non-physician, can describe it as unnecessary. A fair question, but believe me, I would really have preferred if someone had told me that it was all necessary. I longed for someone, anyone, to tell me that this had to happen for reason X, Y, or Z. That would have made it a lot easier to deal with. But I’ve spoken to people involved in every phase of the entire episode and no one has even tried to argue that this was the right decision.

I can’t even bring myself to get mad at anyone because they all seem to have meant well, but the process, the system, the protocols, whatever, persists and the wrong thing happens even though anyone can seeing that it is wrong, but being powerless to stop it.

I get the impression that the out-of-hours GP made the decision to send Dad to A&E without even coming to see him, which doesn’t seem right to me. I’m sure some degree of risk aversion played a role. If my father had stayed that night and died in his bed, the doctor might have been on his mind. Fair enough, to a point. But as far as I was concerned, as a family we had already made it clear where we would stand when it came to these types of decisions. I don’t know if this was in the notes, but it should have been, as well as directions for us to be consulted. I certainly would have welcomed the opportunity to weigh the relative risk to him of not going to the emergency room versus the much higher risk of the emergency room becoming the nightmare it turned out to be.

However, the emergency room doctors discovered that there was a lot wrong with him – none of which was news – and now it seemed their turn to be risk-averse and discharge him. “It’s crazy, I know,” said a poor young doctor I spoke to. “It’s not even like we have a bed for him here, but I can’t help it.” A shrug from him, a shrug from the nurses and the GP at the community hospital. Shrug, shrug, shrug. It was exactly as it should be.

I don’t know where the blame lies. I hesitate to blame doctors when I can’t imagine what it’s like to make these decisions. Is this the dead weight of insurers and lawyers? Really, I don’t know. The only thing I am clear about is the end result: an obscene waste of the NHS’s time, money and expertise, causing nothing but harm and suffering to the patient.

I don’t say this out of anger; I don’t want anyone to get into trouble. I just want someone to try to put an end to this kind of madness. Of course, universal luxury geriatric care in five-star hospitals would be nice, but in the meantime, keeping crazy decisions to a minimum wouldn’t help an end.

Adrian Chiles is a broadcaster, writer and Guardian columnist