Why Grey's Anatomy Killed Off One Parent While Sparing Another

Thatcher Grey Jeff Perry Grey's Anatomy ABC

Grey's Anatomy featured another death recently as Meredith's father Thatcher ended his battle with terminal cancer. Surprisingly, the reason behind the character's death wasn't because the initial plan was to kill him off, but rather a way to even the show's scales. Showrunner Krista Vernoff explained that Thatcher ended up being the sacrificial lamb of sorts during "The Winner Takes It All" in order to ensure another parent on the show could pull through:

We did some brutal things to our characters and expected them to die… then they lived. So I said to [Finch], ‘If you really want Catherine to survive this surgery that so few people survive and have it feel like a miracle, someone we deeply care about has to die. And she came to me with the idea of Meredith’s father.

As Krista Vernoff stated, Grey's Anatomy had a streak of characters going through really bad situations, but then pulling through and surviving their tough times. Catherine seemed like an easy candidate to break that streak, as Vernoff told TVLine the procedure the character had is one "few people survive." The episode's writer Elisabeth R. Finch wasn't so willing to part with Catherine, and instead presented Thatcher as another option to remind viewers meaningful characters aren't immortal.

Vernoff added that Elisabeth R. Finch wanted Catherine to survive as the story drew parallels to her own battle with cancer, surgery, and survival post-operation. Additionally, Finch told EW she wanted to show that life with cancer is imperfect, and that two people can follow their doctors' orders and it end in life and death. Finch hoped to showcase that there is no "right" way to battle cancer, and present a different method behind how people battle the illness.

That was showcased with Joe Perry's Thatcher Grey, who opted not to continue fighting through his terminal cancer diagnosis. Instead, he declined further treatment, and sought to die in his home in a reasonable amount of comfort while he still could. It's common to say folks "lose" their battle with cancer upon death, but Elisabeth Finch sough to show coping with the illness isn't about winning or losing.

All that didn't make the death of Thatcher Grey any less devastating, as Meredith got a chance to share some moments with her father before he passed. There were some saddened to see Thatcher go, but some even sadder for Meredith. She's seen a lot of people close to her die in the past decade, and one has to think that amount of loss will further shape her character as Grey's Anatomy continues.

Grey's Anatomy is on ABC Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. ET. The coming weeks are jam-packed with a bunch of new and returning television shows worth checking out, so be sure to keep up on all the latest premieres with our midseason premiere guide.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick contains multitudes and balances his time reporting on big happenings in the world of Star Trek, the WWE, reality television, and other sci-fi shows.