Is Inclusiveness Enough?

Susan Narjala   |   November 15, 2022 

Diseases. Diagnoses. Deliberations. Drama. Doctors.

Lots of doctors.

That pretty much sums up one of the TV shows my husband and I watch fairly regularly on Netflix.

When the IndiAanya editors suggested 'TV shows that have impacted you' as a topic for this month, my mind immediately jumped to The Good Doctor.

While it’s not a Christian show by any means, and it includes several themes and incidents which don’t align with conservative values, the series is entertaining, heart-warming and thought-provoking. The medical drama dives into the life of Dr. Shaun Murphy (played by Freddie Highmore), a surgical resident at a fictional hospital in San Jose.

Shaun is on the autism spectrum and has stunning skills (more precisely, he has what is known as savant syndrome) that enable him to envision solutions to near-impossible medical dilemmas. While I’ve watched movies with neuro-diverse protagonists, never before have I watched an entire TV series where the anchoring character is on the autism spectrum. The Good Doctor is a much-needed step in the right direction in giving the viewer a glimpse into a world that might be vastly different from ‘business as usual’.

Dr. Shaun Murphy is endearing and odd, he is refreshingly honest but also rudely candid, he is childlike in his demeanour but also incredibly discerning in his diagnoses.

But here’s what I love about the show: while it doesn’t preach inclusiveness, the show organically weaves it into the narrative. It seamlessly portrays moments where we empathise with Shaun, walk in his shoes for a few moments and feel the sense of overwhelm, overstimulation, confusion and sensitivity that he experiences.

The cast of doctors, patients, family and friends whose stories pivot around Shaun, respond to him in varied ways. There are those who are shocked by Dr. Murphy’s candour, others who accept him for who he is, some who bully him or take advantage of him and still others who depend on him, love him and advocate for him.

That begs the question: How do I respond to someone who is different from me? Do I accept them for who they are? Do I trust and respect them?

And, most importantly, do I truly believe that my life and this world are enriched and blessed because of them?

Here’s the thing: God doesn’t make mistakes when He thoughtfully designs each baby in his or her mother’s womb. Each one of us is created in God’s image and therefore have inherent worth and purpose.

Do I recognise and celebrate God’s perfect fingerprints over every life?

I don’t believe that a token fictional doctor with autism in a make-believe hospital is the answer. But the indisputable value Dr. Murphy brings to his patients and his relationships does prompt some tough questions.

It’s no longer a matter of just inclusiveness as if we were doing someone a favour. It’s also about appreciating differences and celebrating them.

In the words of one of the show’s leading characters, Dr. Glassman:

 “Aren’t we judged by how we treat people? I don’t mean as doctors I mean as people. Especially those who don’t have the same advantages that we have. We hire Shaun and we give hope to those people with limitations that those limitations are not what they think they are. That they do have a shot. We hire Shaun and we make this hospital better for it.”

As those who understand the uniqueness of every individual that God has created, may we recognise, champion and celebrate the strengths, talents, intelligence and grit of those with neurodevelopmental differences.

Just as the fictional hospital in The Good Doctor is made better by Shaun, our lives are enriched and deepened by those who interact differently with the world than we do.

For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. Psalm 139:13-14

 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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When she's not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in Chennai, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humour in the everyday, and writes about it on on her blog, www.susannarjala.com

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