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Tricky Diagnosis of Pedophilia on The Good Doctor

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The Good Doctor has addressed it’s main character’s Autism take center stage since the beginning. Freddie Highmore plays Shaun Murphy. He is a surgical resident. Suffering from savant syndrome and autism, Shaun has shone in his field, despite the stigmas and ideology associated with mental disorders. The TV show has been successful in delivering a believable premises. So, it might have felt like that it was time to pass off another mental disorder.

Good Doctor New Episode About Pedophilia

In the latest Season 2, Episode 9, “Empathy”; the doctors come across a patient who is a diagnosed pedophile. A patient George Reynolds shows up at the hospital. He swears that although he is attracted to children, he never acts on his urges. Dr. Morgan Reznik treats George like a criminal. On the other hand, Dr. Claire Browne see George as a person afflicted with a condition. The patient, played by Tyler Ritter, is depicted as a distressed pedophile. He has had a stroke because of suppressants he has been taking. George admitted that when his sister’s children were born, he was helpless. The man mutilated himself to keep his urges in control. Moreover, he urges the doctors to castrate him. That way he would not act on his impulses. He ends up committing suicide. He steps in front of a moving vehicle which takes his life.

The Issue of Mental Health

While we cannot deny that the main premise of the show is regarding a mental disorder. However, there are proven medical tests to determine autism spectrum disorder. When it comes to sexual disorders, or any psychological disorder; there is always a struggle in depiction. The Good Doctor is a medical show. It can be applauded for reaching for a topic regarding sexual disorders. However, it is always important to make a reliable if not accurate depiction of how any psychological disorder truly affects a person.

The Somewhat Flawed Depiction

While it was brave to touch a sensitive topic such as pedophilia on broadcast television, doing it justice was also important. Here are some factor that I think were not favorable in the depiction of this disorder.

The Diagnosis of Pedophilia

While a person is diagnosed with pedophilia, it is not a set diagnosis. There is a list of diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5. There is a minimum number of diagnostic criteria that an individual has to meet before being diagnosed a pedophile. The purpose of adding the disorder to DSM-V was that not everyone who show sexual inclination towards children is a pedophile. It is a sexual disorder. Not to be confused by perversion which is intentional.

The Lack of Treatment

While the character George admits that he is a pedophile, he was taking drugs to control his condition; and that he was a Virtuous Pedophile. It still does not explain why his disorder was depicted so overwhelming. Psychological disorder is a part of life. Does it disturb your daily life? Yes. Does it dominate your daily life. No.

George was shown to have no control over his condition despite committing to be a Virtuous Pedophile. He was taking medication, and hurting himself. Yet, his disorder was not letting him live normally. In simple words, you control your urges, they don’t control you. I would like to meet this guy’s therapist or psychiatrist. Because whoever that was, it was their job to make George feel safe. To make him realize that it was a psychological disorder and not his own intention causing him trouble.

The Suicide Watch

One thing that did disturb my mind was George’s suicide. Bare with me. The guy came in with a disturbed state of mind. He admitted to self mutilation. He also insisted on castration. How then did he get out of the hospital? And then proceeded to step in front of a moving vehicle to commit suicide? I’m sorry but in my opinion, he should have been placed under observation in psychiatric ward for suicidal tendencies.Did the doctors hold such a strong prejudice that they let him put his life in danger?

Overplayed the Empathy Part

The episode was titled ‘Empathy’. While it is a beautiful emotion, it did not play out well in this story line. The show creators and writers concentrated so hard on making the audience empathize with George. Which led to a very troublesome and flawed depiction of a mental disorder. If the purpose was to create awareness for the mental disorder, then maybe killing the character was not the best idea.

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  1. Max says

    I think they killed their whole point by ending with “the world’s not worse off with him dead”.
    Yes, it is. He had family who loved him, and with proper treatment for his disorder, he could have been someone who made a positive impact in his sister’s kid’s lives.

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