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Grey’s Anatomy: What episode does Derek die?

Bruno Cooke October 19, 2020
what episode does derek die
Photo by Scott Garfield/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

What episode does Derek die in Grey’s Anatomy? The American medical TV drama will return to screens on 12 November and Star Ellen Pompeo extended her contract for a year to make it happen. But for those joining from the beginning, there are burning questions to be answered. Spoilers ahead!

If you like spoilers, and you’re here to learn about the events of Grey’s Anatomy, then carry on reading.

However, if you want to preserve the sanctity of the story for future viewing, leave now! Although you already know Derek dies, so maybe there isn’t much left to lose.

Who is Derek in Grey’s Anatomy?

Portrayed by Patrick Dempsey, chief surgeon Derek Christopher Shepherd is a central character to Grey’s Anatomy – and something of a heart-throb. So much so he is referred to as “McDreamy”.

Derek makes his first appearance in Grey’s Anatomy’s pilot episode, A Hard Day’s Night, broadcast in March 2005. At the beginning of the series, Derek is chief of surgery at Seattle Grace Mercy West. The hospital is later known as Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. 

About Last Night | Season 1 Official Trailer | Studiocanal International

Due to his quick departure from a well-established and highly respected medical practice in New York, Derek’s personal history is something of a mystery to his colleagues.

Later, though, his past catches up with him in dramatic fashion during the season one finale with the arrival of his estranged wife, Addison.

What episode does Derek die? Spoilers!

In season 11, episode 21, Derek suffers a fatal car accident en route to the airport. As a result, he loses his capacity for speech, although he retains the ability to hear and understand when he’s being spoken to.

The closest hospital, unfortunately for Derek, lacks equipment, funding and is low on competent medical staff, which means he doesn’t receive proper medical attention on time.

Owing to the arrogance of the doctors, and compounded by the inexperience of the interns, his head injury goes unnoticed. When they finally discover the brain injury, there’s no chance of survival.

Derek is already brain dead. His wife, Meredith, pregnant with his third child, arrives and consents to remove him from life support.

The episode is entitled How To Save a Life. There, are you happy now?

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or