- "You’re right, I’m weird. Part of my weirdness is that I perseverate. That means I keep thinking about things. So, I will keep knocking on your door until I know Martine is okay."
- —Dr. Shaun Murphy[src]
Dr. Shaun Murphy is the main protagonist of The Good Doctor. As a resident at St. Bonaventure, he must learn the ropes of hospital work, while facing unique challenges and embracing his strengths due to his diagnoses of autism and savant syndrome.
As a young child, Shaun was raised alongside his younger brother Steve by their mother and father. He was bullied by other children in school and teased for being autistic.
Little is known about Shaun's mother (though he mentions she made good pancakes). His father's method of child-rearing eventually turned abusive, ultimately resulting in him killing Shaun's rabbit when he was fourteen. Shaun and his brother ran to the nearest "doctor place" (as Steve called it), where they met Aaron Glassman for the first time. It was during this time that Steve promised Shaun they would never go back to their parents. He also gave Shaun a small toy scalpel, which would be treasured for years to come. Shaun was 14 when these events occurred.
The two ran away together and lived in an abandoned school bus together, until Steve's accidental death while playing in an old building with a group of other children. Shaun was picked up by a police officer, who tried to take him back to his parents; at this point, he fell apart in the back of the squad car, screaming and crying about Steve's promise to him. Ultimately, Glassman took Shaun in, and raised him like a son. At one point, Shaun lived with a distant foster mother who was fond of saying "tough titmouse" in response to a situation. After his foster mother got diagnosed with a terminal illness, she sent Shaun away again. It was shown that despite her distant attitude towards Shaun, she truly cared about him and was devastated to have to send Shaun away.
He lived independently in Casper, Wyoming for some time (though both Glassman and Shaun note that his neighbors provided much-needed help). With Glassman, he managed to develop his skills to be a doctor and to later control his emotions and remain calm in tough situations. Later, he moved to San Jose to begin his residency at St. Bonaventure.
In season 2, Shaun is forced to deal with the unexpected return of Lea. Shaun's was hurt from Lea leaving causing him to act like a jerk towards his best friends at a time when Lea needs his support after a bad experience in Hershey. The two ultimately reconcile and move in together. Though they experience some problems adjusting to being roommates, the two are able to find solutions and maintain a supportive platonic relationship.
At the same time, Shaun has to deal with Glassman's cancer diagnosis and the various problems that come with it, particularly Glassman's increasing memory loss. Shaun is left torn between being a supportive friend and what the rules say he must do, leading Shaun to take away Glassman's license. However, after learning just how badly this action hurt Glassman, Shaun learns how to drive with Lea's help so that he can drive Glassman around instead. Though Shaun initially experiences problems with driving, Lea is able to help translate driving into medical terms and Shaun succeeds in learning the skill.
In "Quarantine," a viral outbreak in the ER at Christmas time traps Shaun along with Morgan and Lim. Constantly distracted by a buzzing light even before the quarantine, Shaun goes into sensory overload and suffers from an autistic meltdown after Park's son Kellan suffers an asthma attack and collapses. In "Quarantine: Part Two," Morgan revives Shaun by getting him to focus on "Mall Santa" Pete's abdominal surgery; with Doctor Lim incapacitated by the virus, Shaun and Morgan complete the surgery by themselves and save the patient. Shaun remains distracted by the buzzing light, wearing ear plugs until Park smashes the light, ending Shaun's sensory overload issues. Shaun is then forced to treat a pregnant mother-to-be who suffers complications requiring a C-section. With no other doctors available, Shaun is forced to perform the C-section himself as his first solo surgery with an OBGYN supervising from outside the ER. Though Shaun goes into sensory overload again, he fights through it and delivers the baby. When both mother and baby suffer complications, Shaun treats them both at the same time with the help of Kellan. Shaun succeeds in saving both of his patients and later shares a rare hug with Glassman after learning of Glassman's meningitis diagnosis.
In "Aftermath," Shaun and Glassman spend a day with Lea at her job, though Shaun remains concerned about Glassman who decides to leave the hospital early after his meningitis surgery. At the end of the day, Glassman tells Shaun that he intends to speed up his cancer treatment and recognizes that Shaun still has feelings for Lea, telling Shaun that he deserves to be happy. When Shaun returns home, he is surprised and upset to discover that Lea now has a boyfriend.
Shaun has "almost perfect recall," extraordinary and genius-level intellect, and the excellent analytical abilities that allow him to make highly accurate diagnoses. He dislikes direct questions and confrontation. He is highly perceptive and often bluntly voices these perceptions, such as noting that his superior, Dr. Neil Melendez, was "arrogant" on the first day that they met. During hospital scenes, Shaun's thought process is frequently captured in an overlay for viewers, demonstrating his eidetic memory. This shows that he is a highly visual learner.
His autism is depicted as obvious to many of the people he interacts with. He displays several traits of his condition, including heightened sensory sensitivity, abnormal inflection when speaking, lack of interest in eye contact, and heavy reliance on routine. Additionally, he becomes fixated on certain objects at times, most notably the toy scalpel that Steve gave to him. He insists on eating the same thing for breakfast every day: yogurt and a green apple except for Mondays when he has breakfast with Dr. Glassman at the hospital. He loves to eat chocolate chip pancakes with a glass of milk. Shaun is revealed to have never met another autistic person before encountering a patient with it at the hospital. Shaun was clearly uncomfortable treating the young man, but his unique insight into the young man's condition allowed him to recognize that he was autistic and not psychotic as was originally believed, help calm him through most of an MRI and figure out what was wrong with the patient. Shaun also suffered discrimination from the parents due to his own autism, but with the help of Melendez and the patient, Shaun was allowed to perform the surgery and proved the parents wrong when he saved the young man's life during a dangerous part of the operation. Shaun pointedly rebuked the parents afterwards as they had caused their son to get sick and they subsequently began listening to their son rather than unilaterally making decisions for him. In "Quarantine," a buzzing light and the stressful situation caused Shaun to go into sensory overload and collapse into the fetal position; Morgan was able to get him through it by getting him focused on a surgery. When Shaun went into sensory overload again during a C-section, he was able to fight through it and come up with a solution to the problem.
Despite Shaun's troubled childhood, he maintains a generally positive outlook on life, choosing to pursue medicine in the hopes of improving the lives of others. However, he is wary of forming deeper relationships with people after the death of his younger brother and his rabbit. Shaun is revealed to have a great degree of proficiency, if not fluency, in Spanish. He also mentions an interest in football in at least one episode. Among the things Shaun dislikes are pickles, coffee, Chinese food, Tequila and direct questions. He has an aversion to physical touch unless he is the one to initiate it. He is shown as being fond of cats.
As a result of his autism, Shaun has trouble with cognitive empathy, but is fine with emotional empathy, meaning he can pick up when someone is upset but often has trouble discerning why, this is something that he himself notes. As a result, he may make a decision that is rational and by the rules, but morally wrong or otherwise harmful such as taking away Dr. Glassman's license due to the rules dictating it while not understanding why Glassman was angry with him, Shaun was able to see that Glassman was upset, but not ablue to understand why he was upset. This is something Shaun is shown working on such as learning how to drive to make up for taking away Glassman's ability to drive himself places by driving Glassman instead. Another example is how he treated Lea after her return due to being hurt over her leaving in the first place which made Shaun rude and mean to his friend. At one point, Shaun advocated against giving a patient surgery to fix a dent in his forehead as the surgery was cosmetic and unnecessary. After hearing the young man's story, Shaun actually empathized with the patient and came up with a simple and ingenious solution that fixed the problem while also saving costs. Shaun came to feel he made the wrong decision as the patient suffered a complication that almost killed him, but Park revealed that Shaun's actions actually saved the young man's life as he had been planning suicide beforehand.
|"Burnt Food"||"Mount Rushmore"||"Oliver"||"Pipes"||"Point Three Percent"||"Not Fake"|
|"22 Steps"||"Apple"||"Intangibles"||"Sacrifice"||"Islands: Part One"||"Islands: Part Two"|
|"Hello"||"Middle Ground"||"36 Hours"||"Tough Titmouse"||"Carrots"||"Two-Ply (or Not Two-Ply)"|
|"Hubert"||"Stories"||"Empathy"||"Quarantine"||"Quarantine: Part Two"||"Aftermath"|
|"Xin"||"Faces"||"Risk and Reward"||"Believe"||"Breakdown"||"Episode 218"|
- It is unknown when he was diagnosed with autism and savant syndrome.
- Freddie Highmore, the actor who portrays Shaun, studied Spanish, which his TV series character is fluent in.
- Dr. Glassman states that he has known Shaun for 12 years, they met when Shaun was 14, making Shaun’s current age 26.