Grey’s Anatomy, which first aired in 2005, is a long-running drama series on the ABC network. The story follows the lives of doctors working out of a hospital in Seattle, with many of them rising from the bottom of their careers as interns.
With a cluster of medical emergencies, romantic affairs, and a slew of traumas, its current and ongoing 14 seasons have rattled anyone who’s dared to finish them all. Grey’s Anatomy creator, Shonda Rhimes, has had a fun time killing off some of the show’s most prominent characters. And if we can’t have them back, we might as well remember them.
Here the top 10 Grey’s Anatomy characters who died.
10. Gary Clark
In season 6, Gary Clark was a recurring character whose wife, Alison, was being treated for cancer at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital. Due to the extensiveness of Alison’s disease, she underwent a surgery that at first appeared successful, and later caused severe complications.
Because she had signed forms stating that she would like to be taken off life support if it was all that was sustaining her, several doctors agreed that she would not wake up from her injuries. Despite this, Gary was in denial about his wife’s agreement though they had agreed upon it a few years prior.
Initially, Gary decided to file a lawsuit versus Derek Shepherd, who had overseen his wife’s surgery and ultimately signed off on taking her off life support. When it came down to it, Gary lacked any definitive case because the doctors had followed their duties and merely done what they were supposed to do.
Even though Gary did not win his case, he was continually stricken with grief by what had happened to his wife. Unable to cope and formulating ideas about how the hospital staff should have handled his situation, Gary plotted to come into the hospital and specifically kill three of his wife’s former doctors – Derek Shepherd, Lexie Grey, and Richard Webber.
Although he did encounter the trio separately, he was only able to shoot Derek Shepherd on the catwalk outside his office. Before he threatened to kill Lexie, who he found as she tried to locate resources to save another wounded surgeon, a SWAT team member shot Gary, allowing her to flee to safety.
Heading to another floor, Gary demanded Calliope Torres and Arizona Robbins to provide him with a way to sustain his injuries. They complied as they informed him that the only people on that floor were innocent children. Ultimately, upon finding Richard, the pair had a long talk about how Gary only had one bullet left, and had intended to shoot both Richard and himself.
Richard talked him down, convincing Gary to take his own life instead of being arrested. In that way, he might be able to make it back to his wife. The casualties of Gary’s shooting spree included several doctors, nurses, and security guards.
He also shot several others who survived their injuries, including Alex Karev and Derek Shepherd. His actions against the hospital created some of the most intense finale episodes in Grey’s Anatomy and continue to plague the minds of remaining characters today.
9. Charles Percy
Charles Percy was a surgical resident who came to the hospital during a merger between Seattle Grace and Mercy West in season 6. Throughout his time on the show, he helped several doctors perform surgeries and was often a comedic character with great skill at sucking up to his bosses in order to gain a better foothold in the medical field.
Charles was a minor recurring character, however his death was one that shook many audiences. Grief-stricken gunman, Gary Clark, was rampaging through the hospital on the lookout for three specific doctors, however anyone who did not cooperate with him or proved to be a surgeon became a victim to his anger.
During a lockdown, Charles entered the room of Mary Portman, a female patient who came in for a colostomy bag reversal surgery. Her doctor, Miranda Bailey, who was also in the room when Charles warned them that the shooter was on their floor.
Covering Mary with a blanket to falsify that she was dead, Dr. Bailey hid beneath the bed while Charles hurried into the bathroom. Charles unintentionally made a noise just before Gary was about to leave the room. Because of this, Gary discovered Charles’ position and asked him if he was a surgeon. Upon answering yes, Charles was shot.
Once Gary had left the room, Bailey and Mary jumped into action in an attempt to save his life. However, it was impossible to bring him down to the OR and he was unable to survive his injuries. Just before passing, Charles requested that Dr. Bailey tell fellow surgical resident, Reed Adamson, that he loved her, not knowing that she had been one of Gary’s first victims.
8. Adele Webber
Adele Webber was the wife of one of the major characters on the show, former chief of surgery and general surgeon at the hospital, Richard Webber. She made recurring appearances throughout the show as she visited Richard, often demanding that he start coming home and spending more time with her.
The two faced a myriad of marital problems due to his hectic schedule and split up several times. Ultimately, once the pair reunited, Adele began to show symptoms of confusion and memory loss, and came into the hospital more than once with small injuries that fell in line with the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.
Meredith Grey, the show’s namesake and the main character, had lost her own mother to the progressive disease and was the first to catch these signs. Despite informing Richard, he was adamant that this was not the case.
Eventually, after head neurosurgeon, Derek Shepherd, confirmed her diagnosis, Richard agreed that Adele really did have Alzheimer’s. At the time, Derek was running a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s, due to Meredith’s predisposition to an early onset of the disease.
Although Adele initially couldn’t make it into the trial, she eventually gained a spot as her condition rapidly declined. Despite the fact that Richard was insistent on taking care of her, Adele’s state made her an ultimate candidate for an extended care living facility, where she would be safe while Richard worked.
While Richard continued to visit his wife at the home, Adele developed a romantic relationship with another member there who also had a form of dementia. Adele then forgot her husband altogether, and Richard decided to stop visiting since it was doing more harm than good.
In the ninth season, Adele was rushed to the hospital for an aneurysm, which Dr. Bailey was able to fix with Richard’s verbal assistance, who couldn’t operate due to being family. Although Adele appeared to be well, she suffered a heart attack shortly after the surgery and passed away.
7. Henry Burton
Perhaps one of the most interesting recurring characters on Grey’s Anatomy was Henry Burton, a former professional baseball player with life-threatening tumors and no life insurance. Teddy Altman, former head of cardiothoracic surgery at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, proposed to marry him so that he could be put on her health insurance plan.
Following their marriage, Henry was able to undergo surgery. His kidney and pancreas had to be removed because the tumor had invaded those regions. Several other complications, including a heart mass, followed, with Henry admitting his love to Teddy.
Despite this, she didn’t feel that an actual relationship would be appropriate and continued to date other men. Henry and Teddy eventually decided to pursue true romance together.
When she found him coughing up blood, he was rushed to the ER; a tumor near his heart had been the source of the bleeding. Although Richard Webber offered to complete the surgery, since Teddy was unable to as family, she asked Cristina Yang, an incredibly advanced fellow that she was mentoring, to do the operation with a bronchoscope.
Cristina Yang wasn’t informed of who the patient was, due to the fear that this would throw her off of her game. Despite her and Dr. Webber’s best efforts, Henry died on the table.
His death drastically impacted Teddy as well as Cristina, who ultimately felt responsible for the death of her mentor’s husband.
6. Ellis Grey
Meredith’s mother, Ellis Grey, was an incredible general surgeon known worldwide for winning two Harper Avery Awards during her peak. Mother to the main protagonist and namesake of the show, Grey, Ellis was an incredibly stubborn and persistent woman.
Ellis worked long hours at the hospital because of her extreme drive to succeed as a surgeon as well as an affair that quickly erupted with Richard Webber, who was married at the time. The two planned to run away together, leaving behind their respective partners and starting a life of their own. While Ellis broke things off with her husband, Thatcher, Richard decided to stay with Adele because he feared that he would always live in Ellis’s shadow.
In the beginning of Grey’s Anatomy, Ellis had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, however she had insisted that Meredith not tell anyone from the medical community. Eventually, she was hospitalized due to diverticulitis and her disease was discovered by Richard, who decided to begin visiting her in the home she lived in.
One morning, Ellis woke up completely lucid, remembering everything about her life except the previous five years that she had lost to Alzheimer’s. After Meredith explained her condition to her mother, Ellis began sobbing and collapsed. She was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered that she was suffering from heart arrhythmias.
Despite the fact that she could have been treated with medications, Meredith decided that she should have surgery instead, even if it was against her mother’s wishes. During her final moments of lucidity, Ellis recalled the good moments of her life alongside Richard.
Later that day, after receiving a dosage of lorazepam to calm her agitation, Ellis coded in her bed and couldn’t be resuscitated.
5. Denny Duquette, Jr.
Denny Duquette, Jr. was a patient of Dr. Preston Burke who had viral cardiomyopathy, a condition that put tremendous strain on his body and resulted in heart failure. When a transplant heart became available for him, he came into the hospital and was overseen by Dr. Izzie Stevens, a then-resident at Seattle Grace Hospital.
During his initial visit, Izzie had to tell him that he no longer had a donor heart coming to him, and he was quickly discharged. Later on, he came back to the hospital due to heart failure.
While admitted, he and Izzie were incredibly flirtatious with one another, which eventually prompted his decision to accept an LVAD implantation when medications were not working to keep him stable.
After switching to a portable LVAD that allowed him to roam the hospital, he collapsed while attempting to climb a flight of stairs. Eventually, a heart became available for Denny, however when Dr. Preston Burke went to retrieve it, another surgeon was already there with the information that her patient was 17 seconds ahead of Denny on the waiting list.
Because Denny had signed a DNR, establishing that he did not want to continue living if something else was to happen to him and he didn’t get the heart, Izzie lied about his condition, claiming that it was worsening and that he should be a priority for the donor.
When asked for proof, she made an impulsive decision to cut Denny’s LVAD wire, therefore actually spiralling him into heart failure. When other doctors discovered what was happening, they took over in keeping Denny alive while the heart was transported to Seattle Grace.
Despite the surgery going over successfully, Denny died later that night from a blood clot that caused him to suffer a stroke.
4. George O’Malley
George O’Malley was a surgical resident at Seattle Grace Hospital and one of the original five main characters on the show. Often described as a sweet and sensitive guy, George was dubbed “’007” by fellow interns Alex Karev and Cristina Yang after he froze during his first surgery.
Despite this, George was a fantastic surgeon who saved the life of a patient who had sustained a gunshot wound and needed open heart surgery when an elevator broke down. After marrying orthopedic surgeon Calliope (Callie) Torres, George failed his intern exam because of stressful events going on in his life. He was forced to redo his internship.
Although he initially intended to transfer to Mercy West Hospital, he ended up sticking with the Seattle Grace program and became popular among the new interns because of his vast knowledge. When George cheated on Callie with his best friend, Izzie Stevens, the pair split up and George moved in with fellow resident and younger sister to Meredith Grey, Lexie.
Lexie secretly crushed on George and, in an attempt to make him feel better about having to repeat his internship, snooped around and discovered that he had only failed his exam by one point. This prompted George to ask Richard Webber, the Chief of Surgery at the time, to allow him to retake the exam, to which he agreed and promoted George to resident.
George eventually decided to leave Seattle Grace to become a trauma surgeon in the army. However, on his last day, Richard Webber told him to go and relax with his family. Shortly after leaving the hospital, George saved a woman from a bus that would have crashed into her, causing him to sustain serious injuries.
Unrecognizable in the hospital, George’s identity was only discovered after he traced his nickname “’007” on Meredith’s palm. Following his death, his organs were donated to various people.
3. Mark Sloan
Mark Sloan was an often inappropriate and humorous surgeon who was the Head of Plastic Surgery at Seattle Grace Hospital. Mark held several minor relationships throughout his time on Grey’s Anatomy, however his most prominent was with Lexie Grey.
While traveling to separate conjoined twins in 2012, Mark Sloan, as well as Meredith, Lexie, Cristina, Arizona, and Derek, were all subjected to a horrible plane crash. Although he only seemed to sustain minor injuries initially, it was quickly discovered that he suffered from cardiac tamponade.
Despite their best efforts, by the time the group was airlifted from the crash site, Mark was unconscious for two months while his health declined. He woke up briefly but eventually fell into a coma and was taken off life supports after his requested 30 days.
2. Lexie Grey
Meredith’s younger half-sister, Lexie Grey, also known as Lexipedia for her photographic memory and seemingly endless medical knowledge, was a surgical resident at Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital. In the plane crash that left Meredith, Cristina, Arizona, Mark, Derek, and herself stranded, Lexie was the first casualty.
After her lower body was crushed beneath a piece of the plane, she used a belt to make enough noise for Meredith, Cristina, and Mark to locate her. Although she appeared responsive, the injuries she suffered were far too advanced for much to be done for her without immediate intervention.
Despite being unable to move the heavy plane off of her, Mark ordered Cristina to go find supplies to help save Lexie’s life. Even though Mark and Lexie were at a pause in their relationship during the crash, the two confessed their love for one another and talked about how they could eventually get married and have children to accompany Mark’s current daughter, Sofia.
Lexie agreed with this beautiful thought, and Mark told her that they were meant to be. Her final words were repeating his “meant to be” before her injuries became too great and she passed away holding his hand.
Her quirky sense of humor and loving personality stood out among the crowd of surgeons at the hospital, which was eventually renamed Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in honor of Lexie and Mark.
1. Derek Shepherd
Meredith’s husband, Derek Shepherd, began the show as an attending neurosurgeon and was eventually promoted to Chief of Surgery and Head of Neurosurgery. After witnessing a horrible car crash in the middle of nowhere, Derek immediately jumped to action to save the four victims – a young girl and her mother, and two teenagers.
Although he was able to save all of them, an unexpected semi crashed into his car as he sat in the middle of the road. He was quickly rushed to Dillard, a hospital whose doctors did not provide him with the proper medical care for the injuries he had sustained.
Without a CT, Derek was pronounced braindead. Despite his death, Derek’s legacy lives on in his neurosurgeon sister, Amelia Shepherd, and his wife and children. He was one of the show’s leading stars and, after eleven seasons of “McDreamy”, saying goodbye to such a beloved character was not easy.
Viewers around the world are still hopeful that Derek will somehow come back from the dead, however anyone who has watched his final episode can confirm that he is truly gone.