A favorite TV show of mine is “The Good Doctor” on Freeform. The show is about a young doctor who treats patients in extraordinary ways, pushing the boundaries of the medical world all because he has autism and Savant syndrome. At the start of the show, the board of directors of the hospital swear they will never hire Dr. Shaun Murphy because they can’t have an autistic surgeon on staff. Although Shaun went through medical school with flying colors and is more qualified for the position than any other doctor, they were reluctant to see past his disability; the hospital staff act in an ablest manner, devaluing Shaun’s qualifications and experience solely because he is autistic. Shaun’s personal mentor, who also happens to be the CEO of the hospital, put his job in jeopardy to give Shaun a chance. Throughout the show, Shaun shows us the challenges of being in the medical field and the struggles of not automatically receiving the respect and trust that all other doctors do.
Through Shaun’s unique perspective on medicine, he defamiliarizes us with the concept of how to treat patients the right way. Shaun has difficulty seeing each patient as a human with emotions and fears because of his autism, but by focusing solely on the workings of the body, he can develop treatments and surgeries for patients like no other. One of his other skills that seems to offset his inability to interact with people is that he can mentally picture all intricacies of the human body in his head and play out a surgery in his mind to see of it would work safely and successfully. Simultaneously, he can recall any picture or memory whenever he pleases, a luxury that the other doctors envy, especially when it comes to medical facts from textbooks. During his interactions with patients, he doesn’t withhold any information about their health, which can be good and bad; but, as he progresses, the patients start to appreciate this rare form of truth that comes from Dr. Shaun Murphy. Shaun shows us that there is more than one right way to treat a patient in the world of medicine, a difficult pill to swallow for the other doctors on the surgical team.
Slowly Shaun starts to gain the respect of his fellow surgeons as he completes life-saving procedures. But, because of his autism, he is used as a scapegoat by other staff members for mistakes that happen during surgery. Shaun’s job is put in jeopardy multiple times, causing him stress on top of all the other aspects of life that stress him out; consisting of loud noises, crowds, strange people, unwarranted physical touch, and flashback memories of certain times in his childhood. These stressors are like those that affect Temple Grandin and Christopher Boone.
As we discussed in class, the main character of this television show is not played by someone who has autism in real life. In fact, the actor, Freddie Highmore, was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2018 for his mastery of the role. I do agree that Highmore does an exceptional job of playing to all aspects of a character like Dr. Shaun Murphy, but it would have been better if the role was filled by someone with autism. I feel as though the director and producers of the show didn’t cast someone with autism because they felt they would have a lack of control over the show; whether the actor with the disability would be able to perform on production schedule and interact with other cast members, would affect the success of the show. If they really wanted an authentic portrayal of the character, then then should have cast someone with high functioning autism.
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