Intended for healthcare professionals


The prejudices of good people

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 17 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1448
  1. Aneez Esmail (, vice-president
  1. Medical Practitioners Union, MSF Centre, London SE1 3UD

    Leadership is needed to combat continued institutional racism

    If it is only bad people who are prejudiced, that would not have such a strong effect.Most people would not wish to imitate them—and so, such prejudices would not have much effect—except in exceptional times. It is the prejudices of good people that are so dangerous.

    Vikram Seth. A suitable boy. London: Phoenix, 1993.

    In October 1998 a young black man, David “Rocky” Bennett, died while under the care of the NHS at a psychiatric secure unit in Norwich. An inquiry team led by a retired high court judge, John Blofeld, found that Mr Bennett, who had schizophrenia, was killed by being held face down on the floor for 28 minutes by at least four mental health nurses. He had been restrained with unacceptable force after he punched a nurse, believing that he was being racially victimised. Apart from investigating the circumstances of Mr Bennett's death, the inquiry team looked more broadly at the way in which black and ethnic minority communities are treated by the mental health services of the NHS. Blofeld concluded that people from black and ethnic minority communities are not getting the service they are entitled to. He described the institutional racism that was responsible for this as a “disgrace” and a “festering abscess which is at present a blot upon the good name of the NHS.”1

    The term “institutional racism” was defined in 1999 by another retired high court judge, William Macpherson, in …

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