Here's the Real Reason Patrick Dempsey Left 'Grey's Anatomy' Five Years Ago

Why did Patrick Dempsey leave 'Grey's Anatomy' after 10 years back in 2005? Fans still aren't over his departure. Find out why here.

Samantha Faragalli Younghans - Author

Feb. 23 2021, Updated 11:16 a.m. ET

Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo
Source: Getty Images

It's been nearly five years since we last saw Patrick Dempsey portray Dr. Derek Shepherd aka McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy, and to be honest, we still aren't over his departure from the series. One of the show's most popular characters was (SPOILER ALERT) killed off the show during Season 11, and to this day, fans of the popular medical drama wonder what ultimately caused him to step away from such a beloved role. Here's everything we know about why Patrick Dempsey left Grey's Anatomy! 

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Why did Patrick Dempsey leave 'Grey's Anatomy'?

So it turns out, after nearly 11 years on the series, Patrick, who played Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey)'s husband on the show, decided he was just ready to move on. Specifically, he wanted to make more time to spend with his wife, makeup artist Jillian Fink, and three kids, Talula, Darby, and Sullivan. 

"I’m very grateful for Grey’s Anatomy,” he told People in 2016. “It’s given me the opportunity to do everything. But at the same time, there was a cost.”

derek greys anatomy
Source: Instagram
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Eleven seasons with a show is certainly a long time, and Patrick was feeling that. "It had been long enough. It was time for me to move on with other things and other interests. I probably should have moved on a couple of years earlier."

Shortly before he left the show for good, his wife filed for divorce after 16 years of marriage. "I think after a certain period of time, no matter how much money you make, you want control out of your own schedule,” he added at the time. The couple called off their split the following year.

Patrick left the show with respect, as creator Shonda Rhimes revealed his decision to exit was a mutual discussion. "We had a lot of discussions about it," she said at the 2015 Summer TCA press tour. "It wasn't easy or fun, it is never easy or fun. We've been working really hard for a long time together. We're family. Those choices and those decisions are never easy for any of us."

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Fans of the show know that Derek died in a tragic car accident at the end of his final season, leaving behind his wife and three children. And while viewers weren't happy that he was killed, Shonda explained that there was a good reason behind it. "The decision to have the character die the way that he did was not a difficult one in the sense of what were the options?" she explained.

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"Either Derek was going to walk out on Meredith, and leave her high and dry, and what was that going to mean? That was going to suggest that the love was not true, the thing we had said for 11 years was a lie and McDreamy wasn't McDreamy. For me, that was untenable." 

Her goal was to maintain their love. "As painful as it was for me as a storyteller, because I had never really thought that was going to happen, it preserved what felt true to me, was that Derek was going to have to die in order for that love to remain honest," she said.

"Because I really couldn't have the idea that he just turned out to be a bad guy who walked out on his wife and kids be a true story," Shonda added. "To me, it felt like that was the only way to make Meredith and Derek's magic remain true and forever frozen in time."   

With OG Dr. Alex Karev (played by Justin Chambers)'s final episode airing on Thursday, March 5, fans can't help but feel nostalgic about Derek. Here's hoping he'll make a surprise cameo on the show one day in the future!

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