04/23/2015 09:49 pm ET | Updated Apr 24, 2015

Derek Shepherd's Massive 'Grey's Anatomy' Shocker Shatters Hearts

Bob D'Amico via Getty Images

If you have not seen "Grey's Anatomy" Season 11, Episode 21, "How to Save a Life," DO NOT continue reading. Spoilers ahead!

All the tears. All the tissues. All the heartbreak.

"Grey's Anatomy" killed off one of its stars on Thursday night: McDreamy himself, Derek Shepherd. And it was a doozy.

After he rescues and saves four people following a terrible crash, Derek gets back in his car and carelessly reaches for his phone instead of watching the road. If he had been paying attention, he would have seen the oncoming truck headed his way. He's taken to the hospital -- no, not Grey Sloan Memorial -- and although he's awake, he can't speak. We only hear the voice that's in his head, alerting us to the fact that Derek knows he's going to die. Unlike his colleagues at Grey Sloan, the doctors and surgeons who are taking care of him at the hospital he's transported to are not at the top of their game and fail to take him in for a brain scan right away. This, ultimately, is the cause of his death as he suffers brain damage. (Yes, too close to home, we know!) Finally, after what feels like forever, Meredith is brought to the hospital and makes the decision to take her husband, her soulmate, her true person, off of life support.

Patrick Dempsey, who of course played Derek for the past 11 seasons, released a statement to TVLine following the episode.

“It’s been a remarkable ride,” the actor told TVLine. “The worldwide impact has been extraordinary. It is incredible how devoted and passionate the fans are and I will forever be grateful and humbled by the experience.”

Dempsey also talks about his exit from the show in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, hitting newsstands later this week. Sadly, one subscriber got a hold of the issue early, and was clearly not happy about the spoiler. His character's death is particularly surprising because Dempsey signed a two-year contract extension last year that would have kept him on the show through next season. "Grey's" has yet to be renewed for a 12th season.

The show's creator Shonda Rhimes released a lengthy statement following the episode, according to People:

Derek Shepherd is and will always be an incredibly important character -- for Meredith, for me and for the fans. I absolutely never imagined saying goodbye to our ‘McDreamy.’ Patrick Dempsey’s performance shaped Derek in a way that I know we both hope became a meaningful example -- happy, sad, romantic, painful and always true -- of what young women should demand from modern love. His loss will be felt by all. Now, Meredith and the entire 'Grey’s Anatomy' family are about to enter uncharted territory as we head into this new chapter of her life. The possibilities for what may come are endless. As Ellis Grey would say: the carousel never stops turning.

R.I.P., McDreamy.


  • Kate Walsh - played Addison Montgomery
    THEN: Kate Walsh wowed fans and ruffled feathers when she turned up as Dr Shepherd’s WIFE Addison, much to the surprise of his new girlfriend Meredith Grey. And then caused a few more by revealing her affair with his best friend Dr ‘McSteamy’ Sloan. No wonder she got her own series in 2007, starring as the same character in LA-based ‘Private Practice’, also continuing to make guest appearances in ‘Grey’s, including a memorable musical episode ‘Song Beneath the Song’.
    NOW: Walsh finally departed ‘Private Practice’ after six seasons, and proved her acting chops weren’t purely medical with a strong role in Neil LaBute’s ensemble drama series ‘Full Circle’. Although NBC sitcom ‘Bad Judge’ only lasted a season, lucrative TV commercials for Cadillac and Caress bodywash have kept Walsh’s beautiful face in the public eye. Her strongest recent role has been in the award-winning FX series ‘Fargo’.
  • Brooke Smith played Erica Hahn
    THEN: Brooke Smith was a familiar face from TV series and ‘Silence of the Lambs’ when she joined the cast of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ as Erica Hahn, a top surgeon, and had a romance with colleague Callie Torres. NOW: Since leaving the show in 2008, Brooke Smith has seldom been out of work, including appearances in ‘Law and Order’ and ‘American Horror Story’. Her biggest role has been in Leiv Schreiber’s hit show ‘Ray Donovan’, where she played Frances. Next, she’ll be on the big screen alongside Melanie Griffith in film ‘Day Out of Days’, telling the tale of a 40-year-old actress working to make it in the cutthroat business of Hollywood while contending with ever-youthful competition.
  • Katherine Heigl played Izzie Stevens
    THEN: Katherine Heigl’s star power was uncovered as Izzie Stevens, reluctant model turned surgeon at Seattle Grace, and she was soon being recruited for the big screen. 2007 saw her star in blockbuster rom-com ‘Knocked Up’, but she alienated a few fans and definitely her co-stars when she called it “a little sexist” in an interview. Controversy also overshadowed her departure from ‘Grey’s’, after she withdrew her name from consideration for an Emmy, saying her work on the series hadn’t justified it. (Producers claimed she had asked for a light schedule.) She finally left the show in 2010. NOW: Despite her stunning looks, comic timing and talent, Katherine Heigl has yet to have another hit of the ‘Knocked Up’ variety. Although ensemble rom-com ‘New Year’s Eve’ was a hit, her lead role as Stephanie Plum in the much-hyped ‘One For The Money’ led to her being nominated for a Golden Raspberry. She costarred with Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton in ‘The Big Wedding’ and made her TV return last year in CIA drama ‘State of Affairs’, and also provided the voice of Andie in animated film ‘The Nut Job’. A 2012 interview revealed she had regrets about leaving ‘Greys Anatomy’ and wished for a guest return for Izzy “to see that girl take some power back”.
  • Isaiah Washington played Preston Burke
    THEN: Despite originally auditioning for the role of Dr Shepherd, Isaiah Washington caused all sorts of ripples as Dr Preston Burke, being named as one of People magazine’s ‘50 Most Beautiful’ in 2006. As ambitious as his intern Christina Yang, their chemistry turned to passionate romance until she left him waiting at the altar. Isaiah left the show suddenly in 2007 after he made an alleged homophobic slur towards his co-star TR Knight. He said afterwards, “They killed the actor (in me) on June 7, 2007." NOW: He’s been busy. A wrote a memoir about his career and, more strikingly, his search for his ancestors in Sierra Leone, a country where he conducted extensive work for charity, donated medical supplies and helped build a hospital. He starred as one of the two Washington snipers in real-life drama ‘Blue Caprice’ in 2013. He currently appears in CW network’s ‘The 100’, a post-apocalyptic drama. And despite his earlier disaster, Isaiah made a welcome guest return to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in 2014, in a storyline serving to farewell his character’s former fiancée Christina Yang.
  • Sandra Oh played Cristina Lang
    THEN: One of the original interns, and indisputably the most ambitious among them, Cristina Yang caused ripples when she arrived at Seattle Grace. The charismatic Sandra Oh was praised for creating a female, Asian character on primetime telly who would not and could not be overlooked. NOW: Sandra Oh exited the series at the end of Season 10. In the last couple of years, she has teamed up with fellow Canadian Ann Marie Fleming on an animated feature film ‘Window Horses’ and recently announced plans to appear in a short film ‘Autumn Day’.
  • Eric Dane played Mark Sloan
    THEN: Not many actors can boast a ‘water-cooler’ moment, but that was what Eric Dane provided with his first appearance on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ – dressed only in a small towel – when he became forever Derek Shepherd’s love rival ‘McSteamy’. NOW: Film appearances included ‘Marley and Me’, ‘Burlesque’ and ensemble rom-com ‘Valentine’s Day’, which also featured his old co-star Patrick Dempsey. Most recently, he’s starred as Commander Tom Chandler in (another) apocalyptic drama ‘The Last Ship’, produced by Michael Bay, and will shortly be seen in TV mini-series ‘The Fixer’.
  • T R Knight played George O'Malley
    THEN: As the clumsy but cuddly George O’Malley, TR Knight was one of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s most popular characters. Always infatuated with Izzie, he finally got the girl before he was dramatically killed off. NOW: Openly gay actor TR Knight starred in a Los Angeles production of musical ‘Parade’ before making his return to Broadway in 2010, costarring with Patrick Stewart in David Mamet’s ‘ A Life in the Theatre’. Fans will have spotted him in ‘The Good Wife’ as recurring character Jordan Karahalios, and he appears in the forthcoming film ‘A Year and Change’.
  • Chyler Leigh played Lexie Grey
    THEN: Although Lexie was initially just another woman in the bar, it transpired she was Meredith’s half-sister, with all the complications that ensued until she left at the end of season 8. NOW: Following her departure in 2012, Chyler Leigh appeared in television movie ‘Window Wonderland’ before getting another regular role in ‘Taxi Brooklyn’, where she plays lead character Detective Caitlyn Sullivan, in “an action-comedy police procedural centered on the fractious, closely bonded partnership between a streetwise Marseilles-born New York City taxi driver and an intensely driven NYPD detective”.