‘The Good Doctor’ 2×09 Review: ‘Empathy’

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“Empathy” is about more than just being able to put yourself in another’s shoes. It’s also about how we react when choices are taken away from us. Do we accept what’s left, or do we find another route?

The Choices

Three men find themselves in situations where choices are made for them:

  • George is a patient with pedophiliac urges. He’s tried anti-androgens, which gave him strokes, and even tries self-castration. He begs the doctors to finish the job, but medical ethics won’t allow that. “We don’t amputate a kleptomaniac’s hands to prevent them from stealing,” Melendez notes.
  • Billy is a teenaged juvenile hall inmate, being treated after being beaten by other inmates. In addition to his injuries, he has a crater in his forehead that Doctor Park wants to treat. Shaun points out that the crater is a pre-existing condition and treatment wouldn’t be approved.
  • Aaron is still struggling with memory loss, and becomes angry when Shaun orders him to give up his driver’s license or be reported to the DMV. It’s the kind of thing anyone with an aging parent can relate to.

All three of them want some kind of control over what happens to them, but none of them are allowed to have it, for varying reasons.

Do You Need Empathy To Be A Good Doctor?

The two patients leave the doctors struggling with the question of when to go by the book, and when to throw it out. The empathic response would be to throw it out for both George and Billy.

The residents split interestingly on what to do for their patients. Claire is without a doubt the most empathetic of the group, but she wants to stick to the book for George. Shaun is the least empathetic, but also advocates going by the book with Billy. While Shaun’s position is no surprise, Claire’s is, at least at first.

Those are unfortunately the only surprises in these two storylines. After getting some back story about Billy, Shaun comes up with an idea of how they can do the reconstructive surgery without great expense. Park praises him for being empathetic.

In the other case, George reacts to the news he cannot be castrated by leaving the hospital and stepping in front of a truck, while Claire and Morgan watch in horror. It should be a shocking moment, but I’m afraid I expected it from the moment Morgan mentioned suicides among pedophiles.

This marks the second time in a year that Claire has seen a patient commit suicide. Last season, there was very little attention to the emotional impact it would have had on her. In fact, she went to a hospital gala and got dumped by Jared in the very same episode! I hope this time they will pay attention to the PTSD she must be feeling at this point.

When No Choice Is A Choice

Another thread running through “Empathy” is Dr. Andrews’ pending decision on a new chief of surgery for the hospital, now that he’s president. The residents have a betting pool going, and the attendings who are in contention are sniping at each other. But in the end, Andrews decides he will keep the title for himself.

One hopes that non-decision will come back to bite him in the you-know-where. Andrews is becoming the show’s character you love to hate, even more than Morgan.

Random Notes

  • Aaron is getting really good with that yo-yo!
  • Kudos to Lea for helping Shaun to learn how to drive. That can be pretty risky for a friendship.
  • Best lines of the night: “You’re comparing apples to asshats,” Lim tells Melendez, who replies, “I resent being called an apple.”

“The Good Doctor” airs Monday nights at 10/9 Central on ABC.


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