Death is such a presence on Grey's Anatomy at this point, it's practically a character itself: a ghost haunting the halls of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. So whenever a character is revealed to be sick, it's natural to wonder how much time they have left. And ever since Jackson's mother was recently diagnosed with cancer, with a large, nearly-inoperable tumor growing on her spinal cord fans have been wondering whether or not Catherine will die on Grey's Anatomy this season. Will the fearsome, pioneering doctor be able to pull through? Or is the Grim Reaper already hovering over her shoulder, ready to strike?
Fans have plenty of cause to fear; whenever a family member of one of the show's main characters checks into the hospital, things tend to go badly. The number of sick or injured parents, spouses, siblings, and children over the years has grown to alarming levels. And that's not even counting relatives known to have perished before the series (like Derek's murdered father or Cristina's dad, killed in a car accident), or even main characters who died on the show itself (RIP George, Lexie, Mark, Derek).
So how many relatives have actually died after checking into Grey Sloan? Is the body count as bad as one might fear? Let's take a closer look at the actual numbers.
1. Tucker Jones
Procedure: Brain surgery (Season 2, Episode 16: "It's The End Of The World")
On his way to the hospital for his son's birth, Tucker got in a car accident. Then there was a bomb scare in the OR next door, although Derek refused to evacuate while Tucker's skull was open. Good thing, because Bailey's first husband survived the surgery… although they eventually went through a pretty contentious divorce.
2. Denny Duquette
Cause of death: Stroke (Season 2, Episode 27: "Losing My Religion")
Izzie's fiancé had only proposed moments before when he threw a clot after a successful heart transplant and died of a stroke, proving even a surgery that goes well can still end in unexpected tragedy.
3. Molly Grey-Thompson
Procedure: Emergency C-section (Season 3, Episode 10: "Don't Stand So Close To Me")
Meredith's half-sister had to have an operation to fix her baby's lungs while it was still in the womb. Once it was delivered via emergency C-section, it wasn't breathing. Despite all that, both baby and mother eventually pulled through. Phew!
4. Harold O'Malley
Cause of death: Esophageal cancer (Season 3, Episode 12: "Six Days, Part 2")
George's affable father was diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized to his stomach; when the doctors opened him up, they discovered the cancer had spread more than they thought. Though they removed as much as they could, Harold never recovered after surgery. Once his kidneys failed, all his organs started shutting down, and George and his family made the hard choice to remove him from life support.
5. Ellis Grey
Cause of death: Cardiac arrest (Season 3, Episode 17: "Some Kind Of Miracle")
After suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's for many years, Ellis was admitted to the hospital during a lucid period only to discover that she had a heart condition. While her daughter struggled back to life after nearly drowning, Ellis passed away nearby.
6. Susan Grey
Cause of death: Hiccups (Season 3, Episode 23: "The Other Side Of This Life, Part 2")
Boy, Season 3 was a bad year for characters' parents. The third major casualty came when Meredith's stepmother checked into the hospital complaining of persistent hiccups. A series of bizarre and unforeseen complications later, Susan was dead. Meredith's relationship with Thatcher would never recover.
7. Camille Travis
Cause of death: Ovarian cancer (Season 4, Episode 4: "The Heart Of The Matter")
After being diagnosed with cancer at an early age, Richard's niece found out in Season 4 that the tumors had spread all over her body. She made the decision not to fight anymore and checked herself out of the hospital so she could die at home — a decision Richard agreed to, much to Adele's chagrin.
8. William George "Tuck" Bailey Jones
Procedure: Trauma surgery (Season 4, Episode 11: "Lay Your Hands On Me")
Left at home with a distracted Tucker, baby Tuck tried to climb up a bookshelf, only for the heavy furniture to topple over and crush him. Although the infant survived surgery, Bailey's and Tucker's marriage did not.
9. Thatcher Grey
Procedure: Liver transplant (Season 6, Episode 4: "Tainted Obligation")
After years of alcoholism, Meredith's estranged father found himself in need of a liver transplant, which she reluctantly donated to him. While he survived that procedure, Meredith recently found out in Season 15 that her father is now in hospice care, on the brink of death after a bout with leukemia.
10. Aaron Karev
Procedure: Hernia repair (Season 6, Episode 19: "Sympathy For The Parents")
Viewers got to know Alex's brother a bit better when he checked into the hospital to get a hernia repaired. Although that procedure was a success, Alex later learned that Aaron had had a psychotic break and tried to murder their little sister. Diagnosed with the same schizophrenia that afflicted their mother, Aaron had to be committed.
11. Henry Burton
Cause of death: Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (Season 8, Episode 9: "Dark Was The Night")
When Teddy's sick husband needed to be operated on, she asked her protegée Cristina to do the surgery — without divulging the identity of the patient. When her mentor's spouse ended up dying under her knife, Cristina was traumatized.
12. Adele Webber
Cause of death: Heart attack (Season 9, Episode 10: "Things We Said Today")
Ironically enough, both Richard's wife and the woman he cheated on her with both suffered from Alzheimer's — and both ultimately died from heart failure. Although a surgery to fix an aneurysm was a success, the ordeal proved too taxing for Adele's heart, and she passed away.
13. James Evans
Cause of death: Endocarditis (Season 10, Episode 13: "Take It Back")
Years of heroin use led Alex's father to suffer from endocarditis, which ultimately proved fatal; but not before Jimmy and his son reached a semi-reconciliation after years of estrangement.
14. Samuel Avery
Cause of death: Osteogenesis imperfecta (Season 11, Episode 11: "All I Could Do Was Cry"
April and Jackson's baby developed a rare condition in the womb that caused his bones to break easily. Birth proved fatal for the little boy, who passed away in his mother's arms shortly after entering the world.
15. Diane Pierce
Cause of death: Breast cancer (Season 13, Episode 18: "Be Still, My Soul")
After undergoing a double mastectomy, Maggie's mother developed a series of complications, including the spread of the cancer to her liver. Although Maggie wanted to enter Diane into a clinical trial, her mother decided to stop fighting. She passed away peacefully while her daughter painted her nails.
16. Harper Avery
Cause of death: Divine intervention (Season 14, Episode 3: "Go Big Or Go Home")
Although he survived operation on a bowel obstruction in Season 6, returned to the hospital in Season 14 and almost fired Bailey… but ended up dropping dead of unknown causes.
Out of these 16 family members who checked into Grey Sloan, 11 ended up passing away. And of the five who survived, they were just as likely to eventually suffer some horrifying turn of events — divorce, cancer, insanity, act of god — than they were to live happily ever after. So things admittedly don't look good for Catherine… although if anyone has the fortitude to prove themselves an exception to the rule, it's definitely Dr. Fox.