Skip to main content

As any longtime fan will tell you, no one is safe on Grey’s Anatomy. For years, everyone knew Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Co. worked at Seattle Grey Mercy Death — we mean Seattle Grace Mercy West. Then after the tragic loss of Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), the hospital was renamed Grey Sloan Memorial. But of course, the legacy continued on. Even so, Grey’s Anatomy fans have been given a sense of calm as the Shondaland series has lacked a major death for some time. Then recently, showrunner Krista Vernoff explained there’s a reason why no one has died in recent seasons.

When was the last major death on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" - Season Eleven
Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Kelsey McNeal/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

It’s been a hot minute since Grey’s Anatomy had a major character death. And for a show that’s known for killing off lead characters, we haven’t seen one since Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) passed in season 11. The show is now approaching its 17th season.

Of course, we said a permanent farewell to impactful characters, such as Thatcher Grey (Jeff Perry) in season 15 and Jo Wilson’s abusive ex-husband, Paul Stadler (Matthew Morrison), in season 14. But no one from the main cast has been killed off since Derek.

Nevertheless, there have been a few near-death experiences in recent seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. For example, fans were worried Richard Webber’s (James Pickens Jr.) life in the ABC medical drama’s most recent season. Meanwhile, a few major characters — like Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), April Kepner (Sarah Drew), and Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) — have left the ABC medical drama. But they weren’t killed off.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ showrunner explains why there haven’t been major deaths

So why haven’t there been any major character deaths on Grey’s Anatomy in recent seasons? In an interview with Us Weekly published in May 2020, Vernoff opened up about her methods. She also hinted that not having a major death would be the most shocking thing to do, considering the show’s history.

“On Grey’s Anatomy, I did the opposite of what we did on Station 19,” Vernoff said. “There had been so many tragic deaths for so many years on Grey’s Anatomy that I felt like the most surprising thing I could do, repeatedly, was to not kill someone.”

The showrunner continued, “Time after time, no matter how many times I’ve done it, everyone, every time, expects that the person who’s in danger or threatened in some way is going to die. On [Grey’s Anatomy] everyone was so used to the shock death that they were always looking for shock death!”


‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Krista Vernoff Reveals Why Alex Karev Didn’t Die in Season 16

Vernoff then explained a few more changes she brought to Grey’s Anatomy when she returned as the showrunner. But ultimately, it seems some characters are still alive thanks to Vernoff.

“I felt like the more surprising thing was to bring the joy and turn up the humor and the playfulness that had, a little bit, fallen out of the show in the wake of Derek’s death,” she said. “That is how I feel like Grey’s has changed a little since I came back — a lot of characters who might have been dead by now are still alive.”

While we’re relieved to hear the show’s team actively decided not to kill anyone off in recent seasons, we can’t help but feel a little skeptical moving forward. So stay tuned. Who knows what will happen when Grey’s Anatomy comes back for season 17.