Grey's Anatomy: Shonda Rhimes Explains Why Derek Had To Die

There’s been a lot of “he said, she said” related to Patrick Dempsey’s departure on Grey’s Anatomy. Formerly, Dempsey, who played Dr. Derek Shepherd on the long-running series, has stated he was totally shocked by his character’s ultimate fate. But this week, showrunner Shonda Rhimes has stated Dempsey wanted to leave the drama, and because of that decision, she ultimately chose the way out that felt right for the character. You can check out her comments regarding Derek’s big death scene from the TCA summer press tour, below.

The decision to have the character die the way that he did was not a difficult one in the sense that look at the options. Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith … to me that was untenable. Meredith and Derek’s love had to remain Meredith and Derek’s love…Derek had to die in order for that love to remain honest.

The episode when Derek left the series was both shocking and devastating for fans who had not seen it coming (despite the rumors that Patrick Dempsey was leaving that had been all over the internet during the months prior to his exit from the show). The episode featured Derek happening upon the scene of an accident and helping the victims, only to be hit by a vehicle himself. Although he was rushed to the hospital, a doctor made a fatal mistake and Derek died, leaving behind his wife and children. The rest of the season was about moving on and moving forward, and miraculously, the veteran drama has managed to do just that without McDreamy.

What seems to have happened, according to the report from The Wrap, is that Patrick Dempsey had an inkling to leave the show (or was having other on-set problems) and then Shonda Rhimes decided to kill off the actor’s character, leaving him in a little bit of shock. We're obviously never going to learn all of the details related to why Dempsey is ultimately no longer on the series, but even if we did know exactly what happened, it probably wouldn't help the hordes of fans who are still reeling over the character’s demise.

Shonda Rhimes isn’t the first person to speak out this week regarding Patrick Dempsey’s big exit from Grey’s Anatomy. Earlier this week, ABC President Paul Lee also defended the big death scene at TCA, pointing out--rightly--that it got people really talking about Grey’s Anatomy again.

It was great, wasn’t it? It was great to see Grey’s Anatomy so relevant and taking the national conversation in its 11th season.

Despite the loss of yet another integral and popular character, Grey’s Anatomy will still be returning for Season 12 next year, and has even already hired a McDreamy replacement in Jason George. Grey’s Anatomy returns on Thursday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.