Image Credit: Disney
Forgot password
Enter the email address you used when you joined and we'll send you instructions to reset your password.
If you used Apple or Google to create your account, this process will create a password for your existing account.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Reset password instructions sent. If you have an account with us, you will receive an email within a few minutes.
Something went wrong. Try again or contact support if the problem persists.
Image via ABC

In what episode does Derek die in ‘Grey’s Anatomy?’

No one saw it coming.

Running for 19 seasons with multiple spinoffs, Grey’s Anatomy has dominated the medical drama space since 2005. At times, the show can feel like one long obituary with character after character passing away. This makes for a heartbreaking watch, as viewers grow attached to these beloved characters only to have them taken away from our screens. While every death has been sad, the hardest one for many to come to terms with was Derek Shepherd’s.

Recommended Videos

Portrayed by Patrick Dempsey, Derek is a fan favorite and one of the focal characters for a large portion of the show’s run.

His charming personality, loving relationship with Meredith, and undeniable surgical skills made him one of the most appealing parts of the show. Fans got to witness him continue to grow in his career as well as build an amazing family, leading to absolute devastation when he died a shocking and tragic death. Given the fact that he had been a part of the show since the very first episode, his absence still feels like a void that no character has been able to fill.

Despite the audience’s love for Derek, after 11 seasons, it was time for Grey’s Anatomy to move on from its most famous character.

What episode does Derek Shepherd die in?

Derek Shepherd’s fate was ultimately decided in the 21st episode of season 11, “How to Save a Life.”

After arriving at the scene of a car crash, Derek provides as much assistance to the victims as possible before emergency services arrive. He manages to save a total of four people before returning to his car. As he pulls out onto the road his phone begins to ring. While reaching down to grab it, his car is struck by a semi-trailer, and he is immediately rushed to the hospital.

The audience hears Derek’s internal narration as he’s taken to the hospital. Fully conscious, but unable to speak, he begs for the doctors to run a CT scan. He knows it’s what he needs, but the doctor in charge, Paul Castello, focuses instead on his internal bleeding.

It’s a tragic death — Derek knows what needs to be done, but can only watch after mistake after mistake is made. By the time the doctors working on him realize he needs a CT scan, it’s too late. He’s brain-dead. Many feel as though his death was a little too ironic, given that he was a world-renowned brain surgeon who died at the hands of a doctor who didn’t understand proper neurological care.

Soon after, his wife, Meredith Gray — played by Ellen Pompeo — is brought to the hospital by police. She signs the papers for Derek to be taken off life support and sits by his side as he slowly passes away – an absolutely devastating moment that has gone down in Grey’s Anatomy history.

Has Derek appeared in Grey’s Anatomy again?

Although this was when Derek died in Grey’s Anatomy, the character has appeared in later episodes via visions that Meredith has had for various reasons — most recently when suffering from COVID-19 in season 17. In this latest appearance, Derek and Meredith can be seen talking about Meredith’s life since his passing. They discuss the daughter who was born after he died, Ellis, and how he still knows who she is and loves her, as well as how he sees their eldest daughter, Zola, writing him letters in her journal.

When Meredith decides that she does not want to succumb to her illness and stay on the metaphorical beach that she and Derek are on, he tells her “I’ll be right here when you’re ready”. Is anyone else’s eyes welling up?

Since then, Derek has not appeared for two entire seasons. It is unclear when or if he will ever show up again, but here’s hoping that McDreamy finds his way back somehow.

We Got This Covered is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Ryan Galloway
Ryan Galloway
Assigning Editor for We Got This Covered, avid moviegoer and Marvel enjoyer.