‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Writer Explains Why Izzie Never Got Killed Off

Katherine Heigl’s sudden departure from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy remains a hot topic. Heigl played Dr. Isobel “Izzie” Stevens for six seasons until exiting the show in 2010. Many fans argued that Izzie never got a proper sendoff, like some of her counterparts. To clarify, Izzie left Seattle after breaking up with Alex Karev (Justin Chambers). Since then, Izzie has not returned to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Some felt that Izzie’s departure could have been written differently. So, why did the writers of Grey’s Anatomy choose to have that abrupt ending? 

Why did Katherine Heigl leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

Katherine Heigl dressed in white scrubs on 'Grey's Anatomy'
Katherine Heigl from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Michael Desmond/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Katherine Heigl Regrets the ‘Heightened Drama’ She Felt When She Left the Show

Over the years, Heigl’s exit from the medical drama has been speculated by fans. In the end, the Emmy award-winning actor wanted to leave because of her family. According to Lynette Rice’s tell-all book How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, Heigl revealed that she wanted to be with her family. 

“I started a family, and it changed everything. It changed my desire to work full-time,” she explained. “I went on family leave and just got to be a mom, and it changed my whole perspective. That was really the turning point.”

Heigl told the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, about her desire to leave. “So before I was due back, I spoke again to Shonda about wanting to leave,” she added. “Then I waited at home until I was given the formal OK that I was off the show. The rumors that I refused to return were totally untrue.”

But, Rhimes still wanted her to stay on the show. “[Shonda] wanted to try to figure out how I could do both [parenting and Grey’s], and I kind of wanted to do both. There wasn’t a great way to compromise the work schedule that didn’t negatively affect the crew or the cast. It wasn’t feeling fair to them or the show to ask them to bend around my needs.”

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ writer explains why Izzie never got killed off

Katherine Heigl, and Justin Chambers dressed in white scrubs from 'Grey's Anatomy'
Katherine Heigl, and Justin Chambers from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Eric McCandless/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Katherine Heigl Reveals What It Would Take for Her To Come Back as Izzie Stevens

After Heigl’s sudden exit, Grey’s Anatomy fans felt the character’s fate could have had a different outcome. According to Insider, Grey’s Anatomy writer Mark Wilding revealed there was still “hope” that Heigl would return to the show.  “I don’t know why we didn’t kill Izzie. I really don’t,” he said. “[Katherine] subsequently talked about wanting to maybe come back to the show to wrap things up a couple of years later, but that never happened.”

In the book, another writer named Jenna Bans said Shonda Rhimes decided not to kill off Izzie. Bans said, “Shonda felt like that was more of an unexpected way to go.”

In season 5, Izzie and Alex tied the knot while she was battling stage four skin cancer. After beating cancer, she returns to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. When Alex tells Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) that Izzie is “unfit” to do her job, she leaves for an extended period. Izzie makes a few appearances in Grey’s Anatomy Season 6. Eventually, she comes back after Alex is “moving on” without her. Then, the couple ends their relationship, and Izzie never comes back to Seattle.

Will Katherine Heigl return to the show?

Since her departure, Katherine Heigl has not returned to Grey’s Anatomy. Although she is busy with other projects, like her Netflix show Firefly Lane, the actor expressed interest in returning to the medical drama. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Heigl was asked if she would return to the series. “I would never say never,” she said, before adding, “but it’s not likely.”