Good Doctor: The side effects of artistic license (Episode 6 Review)

by: Raine

It’s taken me awhile to think of how I wanted to present my take on episode 6. There are so many psychological issues broached that I had a hard time figuring out what angle I should take. I am NOT an expert on feral children although my psych studies did tell me that the case in this show was mishandled. Along with that, Si-on’s behavior is becoming less “autistic”. It’s all the result of artistic license.

 There are also a few very, very big medical faux pas that would result in losing a medical license here in the states. I want to assume the same is true in Korea.

The political crap that happens in this episode interests me NOT in the slightest save for how it affects the doctors’ interactions with the patients. I will rail on one doctor in a little while. There are some personal reveals about Do-han, which explain his aversion to Si-on. I have a few issues with that story, too. I suppose it’s safe to say I have issues with almost everything in the show save for the acting. The actors are doing ok.

Let’s break this down into four sections: feral children, Si-on and his autism, Do-han’s back story, and doctor behavior.

1) Addressing the feral child

My knowledge of feral children was limited to psychology texts. I had a few discussions and did a little research. I’m by no means an expert now, but I have something to go on. Based on the information I found, I will make a few assumptions.

I am going to use two modern case studies:

The Southn California feral child

The Plant, Florida feral child

I distrust any historical accounts because they’re not necessarily accurate or true.

My sister also found an article written by a neuroscientist addressing feral children and their role in cinema.

A neuroscientist’s article

Feral children are such a rarity that to use them in the show is basically an invite for the writer to have free reign. Historically, most cases of feral children have been falsified. They are not well understood. There is one point that the neuroscientist addresses that is important to Good Doctor: the condition that the feral child suffers from is NOT autism. Autism is a developmental disorder. It’s internal. The feral child suffers from external deprivation of socialization: external factors.

The story equates Si-on’s autism with the patient’s complete lack of human socialization. While Si-on and the girl do have similarities in their inability to understand social processes, they are not of the same ilk. Si-on may feel the same social isolation as the girl, but for him to realize that is a bit of a stretch for him. I’ll touch on that in section two.

Based on the case studies I read in college and the ones I have links for above, feral children are not capable of some of the behavior shown by the girl in this episode. She would be incapable of receiving affection or any kind of touch. After time, both cases I read showed that the girls were able to accept human kindnesses. Before that, they had no idea how to and actually rejected it. It was unfamiliar.

I just can’t see the wisdom in Si-on letting the other kids in the ward come in and “pet” the feral child. She is too unpredictable and COMPLETELY unsocialized. There is no “common sense” or prior knowledge. If she gets scared, she will react using basic instincts.

As for her taking on the traits of the dogs she was raised with, I’m not sure how that works in real life. It SEEMS like a logical thing and that she’d communicate as the dogs did. It SEEMS logical based on current scientific models so I won’t argue with it. Here is where the writer is truly free to do whatever. All science really has to go on are stories and falsified accounts. The neuroscientist thinks that it’s possible and I’m inclined to believe her. You guys should really read the article. So interesting.

2) Si-on’s behavior

My biggest issue with Si-on’s behavior this episode is the kind of insight that he had. It required him to put himself into someone else’s shoes. One of the basic traits of autism is the INABILITY to do that. So, you see where my qualm is.

At the same time, the fact that the feral girl’s pain bothered him is something that would happen. Si-on’s autism would make him highly aware of the powerful emotions radiating off of the girl. It is possible for him to have the compassion.

I do see the connection with animals. Temple Grandin, the famous, brilliant woman with autism, has a special connection with cows. I do like the attempt to bring that aspect of autism into things: the understanding of basic instincts, the raw perception of the simplest emotions. It’s just Si-on is more severe in the social realm than she is. AND he works in a much different field. He needs to communicate with people, patients, parents. The writer picked a very difficult disability to work with in terms of writing and dealing with ALL of the other issues thrown into the show.

For those of you who are having trouble picturing the romance, I do think it’s realistic that he’d crush on Yoon-seo. She’s pretty and generally nice to him and he IS a man. It’s his ability to be IN a relationship that would be the issue. But he’s perfectly functional as far as being a human male is concerned. If his lover/wife/girlfriend is willing to really, really, really work with him and be a guardian as well, then it would work. But that is extremely difficult on the woman. So…how will this work in the drama? I have no idea.

Let’s touch on the ending. Si-on would do something like that without thinking of social consequences, jumping into the fray and accidentally hurting someone. It was one of the things I worried about at the start of the show. As for whether he’d actually do that or not if he was a real case of autism…well, he wouldn’t have done a lot of the other stuff in the episode.

3) Do-han’s backstory

Do-han’s younger brother had what is today called “intellectual disability”. It used to be known as “mental retardation” or “MR”. Intellectual disability is NOT autism. It can share traits, but intellectual disability basically means that the person has a reduced function to perform activities of daily living (day-to-day tasks like getting ready in the morning and all that entails called ADLs) and then reduced social and communication skills. It’s associated with a low IQ – around 70.

Do-han’s brother received therapy and after some time, could perform his ADLs and go to school. Do-han believed that because of his improvement, his brother was ready to go to school alone on the bus instead of being driven by his parents. But he wasn’t. Such a huge change in routine needed guidance and step-by-step explanation. The parents should’ve walked him and taken him on the bus to show him how it was done and before that explain, step-by-step, what and why they were going to be going on the bus instead of driving the car. That would’ve greatly reduced the brother’s anxiety.

The day the brother died, he was thrust into this brand new situation and expected to do well. The social pressure plus the difficulty of putting together  all the minute directions of the task was too much for him. It overwhelmed him and he panicked crossing the street. A car killed him.

I cannot believe that the therapists did not explain to the parents that suddenly introducing new things to a person with an intellectual disability is NOT A GOOD IDEA. Even if Do-han thought it was a good idea and was kindly intentioned, the parents should’ve known from the therapy. What were the therapists doing?

Imagine going to a new place that’s difficult to find. A typical person would get frustrated and lost. Now imagine that you don’t have the mental capability to problem-solve and deal with daily variables. Wouldn’t you be utterly terrified?

Anyway, that’s the brother’s story. Do-han hates on Si-on because Si-on reminds Do-han of his mistaken suggestion for his brother to travel to school on his own. Do-han wishes that he had coddled his brother his whole life rather than force him into the world. Why couldn’t there be a happy medium? So many people with disabilities live wonderful lives with a little help from family, friends or aides. They have some wonderful homes and facilities that do JUST that.

I do understand Do-han’s extreme reaction. Losing a loved one affects a person in a way no other tragedy can. But at the same time, after his intial reactions to Si-on, there should really be some rational thinking or at least turning to Woo-seok for guidance. Or something. Not yelling at Si-on. Do-han should know from his brother that yelling only increases stress and makes it difficult for the person with the disability.

I highly disagree with yelling as a form of education in general. Sure, it’s great on a football field, but not in a hospital where a doctor is holding a SCALPEL.

4) Doctor behavior

I am from the US. My knowledge comes from US systems. I’m going to speak from that point of view. Korea will have it’s own structures, and if you are familiar with them, please take the time to comment and let me know! But there are a few basic things that medical care should address in my opinion. According to this show, Koreans take the Hippocratic oath, so I’m guessing medical knowledge and functioning is shared. Again, assumptions. I need them to write this post that serves as a RANT!

Let’s start with the fact that not ONE doctor knows how to restrain and seclude a physically difficult patient. How is that possible? Patients in pain, who are drunk, who have mental issues, these patients can be very physically difficult to deal with. Hospitals should have training in how to deal with these patients. I find it hard to believe that not ONE person has that training and that not ONE person called for someone who WOULD have the knowledge of how to safely subdue the feral child. Sending a host of doctors randomly at her is NOT the way to do it. She can hurt them AND herself.

The Plant city feral child turned a lot of her aggression against herself and it took years to train her not to do that. Imagine what happens if a group of people flung themselves at her?

I also dislike how the show makes the psychiatric wards suggestions of sedating and restraining the girl a BAD thing. If she needed to be sedated to be bathed and cared for, then she needed to be sedated. IF she needs to be tied down so she doesn’t hurt herself and others, then she should. Safety first. Also, why WASN’T a psychiatrist there if the girl wasn’t kept in the psychiatric ward? I don’t understand. Wouldn’t that be the logical assumption? Have a psychiatrist/psychologist help out with the case? Have a person trained in restraint nearby? They only had the social worker there.

Why did it take half an episode to get the child bathed? She has an infection. She could possibly have more ailments. Being that filthy is not healthy. Why wasn’t that the first thing on the plan after the initial check-up? If there are doctors reading this, please let me know what you think. I can’t, for the life of me, imagine that all that filth is good for her compromised medical condition.

Lastly, using patients for political gain. How is the head of the pediatric department, I call him Dr. Evil, (He’s listed as Dr. Go Choong-man, if you’re curious) even capable of considering patient harm to further his political standing? He tells his resident minion to do “whatever it takes” to make Si-on look bad. I find political meddling repulsive, but when you put the lives of patients, not to mention that those patients are CHILDREN, on the line, that is more than enough to make me utterly furious. The resident minion (Dr. Woo Il-kyu) lets the feral child out of the room.

Take a moment and consider all the implications of letting this child out. She can hurt herself. She can hurt others. She can cause havoc. And she does! Dr. Woo should lose his license for that. He would lose it here! That is in direct conflict with the best interests of the patient AND the hospital. How can he not consider that? I know it’s a story, but this is so awful to me. I hate seeing people abused for personal gain. This child is terrified and doesn’t understand the world. She’s been poked and prodded and drugged. She is scared and unhappy.

I’m disgusted.

And that’s that. I can’t write anymore. My head hurts. I’m not going to talk about mom appearing. To me it’s just makjang.

What do you guys think about all the stuff I said?


Episode 1: First Impressions

Episode 2: the Autism Perspective

Episode 3: How to create a good doctor

Episode 4: How to explain autism

Episode 5: The manipulation of autism

Episode 6: The side effects of artistic license

17 responses to “Good Doctor: The side effects of artistic license (Episode 6 Review)”

  1. I saw your thoughtful post on DB and came over here to see your expanded thoughts. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to continue to watch this drama after the 4th episode, but after reading the recaps for 5 and 6, I just lost all interest in watching. I really wanted to like this drama and was hoping for “heartwarming”, etc but I feel like this is really a makjang drama in disguise. As others have mentioned the politicking, the exaggerated villains, the overall medical incompetence, and manufacturing of extreme situations like the feral child in order to move the story along. I’m pretty bad about dropping dramas, too but I have learned over the past year that sometimes I’m better off just following along reading recaps.

    On a different note, I’m from the US and actually work for a hospital. The one thing we cannot do by federal law is not accept emergency patients. We need to at least stabilize them before transferring them to a more appropriate facility. I wonder if SK doesn’t work like that. This isn’t the first medical drama I’ve watched where ER patients were refused for various reasons ranging from ability to pay to not having OR space.

    • Interesting! Thanks for that insight. I was actually curious about that as well. It’s interesting that they reject patients. Sounds like how American insurances use to reject preexisting conditions.

  2. Going to make this short.
    Si On probably has Asperger’s, not autism. Once I assumed that, the autism portrayal stopped pissing me off in this Drama. Autism is a form of MR, most autistic kids can perform activities of daily living (aka ADLs) and have IQ under 70, which means they cannot work in stressful environments because they are not adaptable as other people. Which is why they prefer having a “routine”. and Si On should not be able to do a lot of stuff in this show which you pointed out, if he were to truly be on the autistic spectrum. He can be mildly autistic, but he still wouldn’t be able to become a surgeon. No way. However, Kids with Aspergers show a strong interest in a particular field (surgery and anatomy in his case, but it could be anything – planes, ships, animals, etc) and have poor social skills. It definitely fits his profile more.

    • Lorafrosty –

      Thank you for taking time to comment. I must disagree with you, though and I discussed this with a music therapist to make sure my responses were current and accurate.

      1) Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism where language is not affected – it’s a defining characteristic of Asperger’s. They may have peculiar speech patterns, but they do not have delayed speech. Si-on does. Spouting facts does not count. That’s regurgitation, it’s not creation of conversation language. You don’t see that in people with Asperger’s.

      2) Autism is not a form of MR. It is a social disorder. It is often coupled with intellectual disabilities aka MR, but many people with autism have average IQs.

      3) I do agree that him becoming a surgeon is a long shot. That is why I suggest in almost every post that he needs an aide. He should be a diagnostician or consult! That would be great.

      4) Kids with autism and all across the spectrum (including Asperger’s, which is no longer in the DSM-V that is coming out soon) perseverate on something: objects, topics.

      5) A highly functioning person with autism could become a surgeon. But while Si-on displays savantism, he still doesn’t have the social awareness necessary to be a surgeon. Savantism usually comes with a severe deficit in another area. Across the spectrum, people with autism excel in one area and have huge deficits in others. It’s brain chemistry and how it functions.

      Thanks again. I kinda went to town on this because it’s something that I feel strongly about.

  3. My background is that I have been a speech/language pathologist (speech therapist) for 11 years. I have worked with people who have had autism both severe and mild and in between. I am also very familiar with grief. My older son died in 2004 when he was 16 and my younger son was 12. I have seen first hand how losing a brother has affected his life. This experience is where I am coming from.

    General accuracy: I think it is about the same as most medical Kdramas and US TV shows, which is: exaggerated for dramatic effect regardless of detailed facts. The politics shown are the same cliches that I have seen on other Korean med shows.

    Autism: The show confuses autism and savantism. Savantism is very rare and not all savants are autistic. The severity of autism that Si-On has seems to vary with situation. Some of the individual symptoms he shows are spot-on, but the overall picture is off. However, the inaccuracy of the autism portrayal is on a par with the inaccuracy of the other medical information that is portrayed. Such as the feral child you mentioned. As far as doctors understanding autism, many do not. They might have seen one or two kids with autism during their training, and their job was never to treat autism, so it’s not surprising that they don’t know much.

    Do-Han and his treatment of Si-On: First of all, yelling at residents is kind of another medical drama cliche. They all get yelled at. Not saying I think it is a good idea. He does seem to be a little harder on Si-On, but Si-On is naturally going to react more strongly to being yelled at. Don-Han is dealing with a huge amount of guilt. He has survival guilt (he is alive and his brother is not). He is also blaming himself for his brother’s death. We don’t see the relationship between him and his parents, but it is possible that they have been torn apart by this tragedy. If so, he has been deprived of three loving relationships, so it is no wonder that he is not doing too well. Lot of complicated emotions going on. I don’t think that his character is that unrealistic. In a real life hospital, I don’t think Si-On would be given any opportunity to practice medicine.

    My two cents. I just try to forget about what I know and enjoy the entertainment for what it is.

    • Ann – I read your post on DB! Again, thanks for sharing your story. VERY difficult to share and I appreciate it.

      I wouldn’t let Si-on in a hospital! Not as a doctor. Perhaps as a specialist, a diagnostician with someone who work with him, an aide.

      I wrote a lot about the doctors understanding autism in previous posts. Woo-seok’s job as the person who introduced Si-on is to educate the people Si-on will be working with. Utter fail on WS’s part. AND as doctors who have to work with someone with autism, it should be something they take initiative to learn about. Just my humble opinion. It’s what I’d do.

      DH definitely has survival guilt. And he was awkward on the phone with his parents. Those relationships are tentative at best.

      I have some experience with survivor’s guilt myself. My aunt just passed away. She was in her late 40s, so it’s different than losing a child, but we’ve had some of it in our family. It was a complicated situation because she had MS and relationships were strained. But I definitely still feel…the effects of that death.

      I do take issue with the yelling, still, because even if he’s suffering, he’s still in a professional environment where his mood and behavior affects other people. This may sound harsh, but he really can’t be taking those issues out on his residents. If he needs time, he needs to take it. Or, really, he should’ve refused to work with Si-on. I think his character is realistic, too. I just disagree with the situations he put himself in.

      I’m interested in hearing about your work with autism! I’ve worked with tons of speech pathologists as a para. Do you have a particular area of interest and population of interest?

  4. I think that I might just give up on this show. I generally am really bad at dropping shows and I tend to draw them out and watch them in small chunks, but this one just makes me so mad at it’s apparent disgust for trying to be at all factual about medicine. I get that they might be trying to draw attention to autism, but in my opinion, by doing so ineffectively, with false portrayals and misinformation does more to harm awareness about autism than any good it might be trying to do. I also cannot stand the excessive use of shouting at people, especially by Do Han. I get that he’s tormented, but the whole “I am going to blame myself for my brother’s death” story is too far fetched. If he’s such a brilliant pediatric surgeon, you would think he would know not to thrust his baby brother out into the world like that. It just made me so mad because I wanted to feel sorry for Do Han, but the story was so contrived that I couldn’t get into it. And YS is so frickin’ bi-polar that I don’t know what to do. I do like her interactions with DH, and sometimes with SO, but she is not at all consistent. And don’t even get me started on the ethics of that idiot resident who let the feral child out. The politicking is even worse than that in Rooftop Prince. Argh!!! I am tearing my hair out here. The acting is fine, but the story and the writing is doing more to make me be disappointed in drama than I’ve felt in a long time. It’s even worse than how I feel about Soon Shin. Maybe it’s because I wanted a drama with Joo Won in it to be lovely. And another thing on the feral child. It’s like the writer was like: “Ooh, A Werewolf Boy” did well in cinemas, maybe if I have a feral child, then it will boost ratings. Little did they realize that it was because of Song Joong Ki that that movie was so well loved. Argh! I am feeling so jaded about this drama. It hurts my heart and my head and makes me embarrassed for Korean drama.

    • Lazy writing. I wish these ppl took the time to research like really good novelists do. I’m going to try to keep with my reviews because I like learning more about a subject I love in order to write about said subject….hopefully I don’t go crazy in the process.

  5. I completely agree with you except for one thing: I don’t think it’s artistic license but simply bad and lazy writing done to supposedly please the (dumb and drama thirsty) audience. I remember the promotion done before the show started: They talked about “realism” and “healing drama” and “heartwarming”. I should have recognized the signs… That’s the same bullshit they served us for I Miss You: It should have treated the topic of a raped child and her emotional/mental recovery. We know how it ended (unnecessary love triangle with a violent second lead who was a lamb for 10 years, WTF female psychology, miraculous recovery…). Those dramas which pretend to be realistic when they are just science fiction annoy me greatly. As for the feral child, I can’t even… Why not talk about real children health issues that parents and medical staff face everyday? Maybe appendicitis is not catchy enough…
    Sidenote: I would like to know what the real doctors working at the Seoul St Mary’s Hospital think of this show: I personally would feel insulted. >.<
    Gah… I hate being scammed and I know how it feels to see a subject you care for being treated lightly. You have all my sympathy.
    PS: As for the OTP love line (the only thing I'm staying for at this point), I'm walking on eggs: I'm expecting a cringe fest very soon.

    • Honestly: liked the sound of artistic license better than lazy writing. And writers often chock things up to ‘artistic license’ when they’re lazy…hehe. I want OTP to be with DH and YS. It would work better. I want SO to gain some good friends and confidants.

      • I think that if there has to be an OTP, it needs to be DH and YS because it just makes more sense anyway. I’m cool with SO having a crush, but he doesn’t have to fall in love to make his journey meaningful. Also, I am with Mystisith on this one: lazy, terrible, bad writing.

  6. ah, really. I enjoy reading your reviews and insights a lot, thank you. but this show …. I watch it and I cringe … I even feel embarrassed. Not for the actors, they are doing ok, but so many things are just WRONG about it. I have very little experience with autism, but watching Good Doctor’s portrayal und misuse of it makes me uncomfortable.

    And it is too black and white for me. The autistic person, who is shown as this pure, and thoroughly good being, who only wants to lessen other creature’s suffering. And then the rest (including Do-han), who are portrayed as cold and inhuman most of the time. In the middle, we have the most annoying characters of them all, Yoon-seo, who fights for the pure and the white because she is GOOD like the typical über-cliched KDrama heroine. Bleh.

    The only thing that I do enjoy are the Yoon-seo – Do-han interactions. There is attraction there but also knowledge that this attraction must be kept under tight control. And there is disagreement – but a lot of respect. If this were the centerpiece of the show without all the very very bad stuff, then it would be thoroughly enjoyable.

    • But Yoon-seo isn’t all white because of the nasty way she treats Si-on. I really hate that….I do like her interactions with Do-han. If I was in the mood to ship a couple, it’d be them.

  7. I’m always wary of dramas that deal with the medical field (though there are good ones) because there’s a tendency for writers to put dramatics ahead of medical accuracy. At this point, it looks like the this drama fits in the general crowd. It’s disappointing that the autism and mental diseases are taken as plot devices/quirks rather than a chance to place these relevant and prominent issues within a pop culture context. Moreover, I’m stunned by the lack of medical training and ethics of the “normal” hospital staff. Sad stuff.

    Raine, great write-up. I understand how painful and frustrating all of this is.

    • Splash – thanks for stopping by. I couldn’t help but write about one of the ONLY portrayals of autism that I’ve found and have had access to. And if one person reads my posts who watches the show and learns something that they can take into the real world, that’s my goal.

  8. I agree with everything you said. As for Dr. Evil, there are bad people and those who use medicine so badly, but I doubt they do it in such a stupid comic book villain way. This is just more of the same “evil” characters of kdrama, whose sole purpose is to be as annoying and as mean as possible. Often by endangering their goals just to be mean for the heck of it. I like my villains mean with a purpose. Not pathetic.

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