The Good Doctor: What is Savant Syndrome? Dr Shaun Murphy’s condition explained

The Good Doctor first appeared on ABC back in 2017 and has proved a major hit with viewers, having now just finished its third series. The show has already been renewed for a fourth season as well following the shocking death of one of The Good Doctor’s beloved characters. So far, a release date has not been announced for season four.

At the end of The Good Doctor, Dr Claire Browne (played by Antonia Thomas) was left broken-hearted as just moments after confessing her love to Dr Neil Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez), he died from septic shock.
He was inside a building when it collapsed during an earthquake and was not the only one inside.
Leah Dilallo (Paige Spara) was also in the building for a charity event and when Dr Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) heard the woman he loves was in danger, he didn’t hesitate in delving into the rubble to find her.
Shaun came out with a group of women who he helped escape and thankfully, Leah had already made it out.
On realising what he was willing to do for, Leah kissed Shaun and told him: “you make me more”.


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What is Savant Syndrome?

While numerous important characters have been introduced over the past three seasons who are very much a key part to the show, The Good Doctor is essentially about Dr Shaun Murphy.
In the very first episode of the medical drama, those at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital were assessing if they should give Shaun a job as a surgeon.
While he was clearly talented and knew what he was doing on a practical level, there were some concerns raised due to his conditions.
Thankfully, they gave him a chance and Shaun has been at the hospital ever since, with little chance of him leaving any time soon.

Shaun is on the autism spectrum which means he has a disorder which affects his brain development.
This is something which has an impact on the way he relates to his environment.
Often this means he struggles with social skills, communicating and repetitive behaviours.
All of this has been explored throughout The Good Doctor and most recently shows how Shaun has dealt with romantic relationships which are more complicated for him.
But not only does Shaun have autism, but he also has Savant Syndrome which is a major reason why he makes an excellent doctor.

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Savant Syndrome is a condition where someone with significant mental disabilities, such as autism, demonstrates certain abilities and skills which are normally superior to their peers, despite being considered developmentally disabled.
One skill which is common for those with the syndrome is an excellent memory which Shaun often demonstrates.
Dr Murphy is not the first time someone with the syndrome has been highlighted as actor Dustin Hoffman also played a man with both autism and Savant Syndrome in the 1988 film Rain Man.
In the film, he uses his excellent memory to count cards in Las Vegas with his brother who is played by actor Tom Cruise.


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But while Savant Syndrome has been previously portrayed in someone with autism, this is not always the case.
According to the Wisconsin Medical Society, only one out of 10 people with autism have Savant Syndrome.
However, one in 1,400 people with other developmental disorders, besides autism, and with central nervous system deficits, has the syndrome.
Clarifying this point, the article points out: “Not all autistic persons are savants, and not all savants are autistic.”
So while Shaun does represent someone with autism and Savant Syndrome, it is not always the case that they go hand in hand.
The Good Doctor season 3 is available to watch on ABC.

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