The Death of Dr. Mark Sloan

Ahhh… Grey’s Anatomy Fans.

I need your help . . .

This may seem funny coming from a medical expert like myself but . . .

I. Have. No. Idea. What. Mark. Sloan. Died. Of?

Anyone know?

The tumultuous end of last season– the plane crash with almost every major character on the plane left us in doubt as to who survived and who didn’t.

At the beginning of the current season, it’s assumed Mark Sloan is dead. But then, he’s not. But then, he is.

From a medical standpoint, I do give Grey’s credit for showing some true aftermath of the crash. A renowned neurosurgeon who no longer has full function of his dominant hand and can no longer do surgery. Kudos. The post-traumatic stress aspects that had one character going through some fairly severe post-traumatic stress. Honestly, how Christina is still walking upright . . . you know after the whole gun situation too when she had to operate on Derick with a weapon to her head.


The confusing thing about Mark Sloan’s death was the ACTUAL cause of death was never mentioned. He had a major chest injury. We know that. He was coherent and talking after the crash. Good! But then, his happiness at Seattle Grace is noted to be “the surge”– which I guess is to equate with a real thing that can happen when a terminal patient has a period of lucidity in order to say good-bye.

But what would have been terminal for this doctor? His heart was too weakened by the crash he wouldn’t live? Hmm… how about a heart transplant? Vasoactive drips? An LVAD device?

To confuse matters more– he signs a 30-day DNR order where if he hasn’t fully recovered, they are to discontinue life support.

But, he still has the breathing tube in his mouth at the end of 30 days.

And here is my teaching point at the end of all my musings. Generally, a ventilator dependent patient (or one who isn’t recovering quickly) is typically taken to surgery and a trach is placed somewhere between 7-14 days (sometimes sooner.) A trach is easier to take of and a more secure airway. Having an endotracheal tube in the mouth and through the vocal cords for that long can cause damage.

So keep this time frame in mind fellow fiction authors.

And please . . . someone tell me . . . what did Mark Sloan die from?

17 thoughts on “The Death of Dr. Mark Sloan

  1. I don’t know if you ever figured out what Mark Sloan’s actual diagnosed cause of death was, but in the finale of season 8, Christina said she was 70% sure Mark had cardiac tamponade. Which is, compression of the heart caused by fluid collecting in the sac surrounding the heart.
    Mark was probably hit in his chest area during the plane crash. And with all the adrenaline he was having, and Lexie’s death, he was most likely not even feeling chest pains until after Lexie had died and even then he was still in the shock of her death.
    Also, when Mark was trying to free Lexie from underneath the piece of the plane she was stuck under, he most likely made the fluid building up in his chest worsen by the strain of trying to lift the bulky chunk of the plane.


    • Hi Haley!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving this comment. Yea, I know they floated out the reason for this death was cardiac tamponade– the problem is– that is a HIGHLY treatable condition and Sloan was at a world renown medical center. Would have been better for them to say that he developed some type of cardiomyopathy, put him on the transplant list, and he dies before he’s able to get a heart. That would have been much more believable and realistic.


  2. For the first comment, Mark was on life support, then not, that confused me too. The fact they did the crash, then the next episode Interns are afraid of Meredith and then back to the state of crash victims in next episode. That is where the confusion of on and off life support came in. But I agree, about switching to a tracheotomy, but I think the need for the vent actually happens later then we thought? Maybe he refused yes but in the one statement he says to Richard “If you can get me back get me back”, so that doesn’t sound like a man who didn’t want treatment. They really did make a weird exit with him having never given a cause and likely there intention to keep chatter going about him? I too really didn’t like that aspect as when they asked Richard and he felt it was the surge, they didn’t say due to his terminal illness, just that terminally ill patients sometimes have it. Lost the will for life maybe? Wanted to be with Lexi in an afterlife? Strange.


  3. i’ve been rewatching the entire series and i’ve been constantly trying to research what the hell is his cause of death was. there is nothing conclusive. i’m so happy this page is still alive, if anyone has any insight to offer, please do!! meredith (and im sure the other doctors when they were found) fixed the tamponade, which is highly treatable as mentioned above. so what was his terminal illness? why the surge if his injuries were resolved? wtf 😦 this is the one hole in her writing that has never made sense….


    • Hi Christina,

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment. It always bothers me on these shows when amazing hospitals cannot do amazing surgeries. Mark Sloan’s death never made any medical sense and they certainly could have done more justice for the character.


  4. It’s pretty annoying how they left it. But, I do know that the creator of the show wanted to make an exit for him, and this was the best way to make his and Lexie’s love stay untainted. I do think they could have done better, since they save people in amazing ways all the time, but he mysteriously dies. Whoever said lost the will to live might have been on the right track. Sometimes, people just can’t get over what happened and can’t heal. That could have been what happened. Maybe since all the great doctors that do innovative treatments were all involved in the plane crash, so no one knew how to fix him? Richard is pretty good, but he’s no Cristina.

    Also, pretty annoyed that they don’t go back to how they were found, what happened, etc. They showed like 3 flashbacks of them getting admitted and Cristina not talking, and that’s it. I want more!


  5. I think Mark Sloan died of stress-induced cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome. Callie does talk about him seeming to give up and given his heartache over losing his love, Lexie, it seems like the best “medical” explanation for his passing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Late to the party but I’m binge watching for the first time and with all of the amazingly researched medical scenarios on the show, this is a real mistake. There is no way to die like that. They drained the pericardium in the field. He was awake and talking after transfer to SGMW. No more tamponade. If his pericardium filled with fluid again, they would have taken him to surgery. Same with any other internal injury including a slow brain bleed or lesion. He was alive for a month and somewhere in there stopped breathing for no apparent reason and went into a coma. What would do that without prompting some type of surgical intervention or treatment? Doesn’t make any sense at all.


  7. I am currently rewatching the episode recapping his last moments for the THIRD time, and stress-induced cardiomyopathy is the only conclusion. Someone needs to get in touch with Shonda because she really screwed us over here, and I still sit around thinking about this today.


  8. Currently in nursing school and our discussion of epidural hematomas brought up that this was the cause of Marks death. Presidents with unconscious period followed by a period of lucidity and then a rapid deterioration. Can also present with cardiopulmonary instability


    • Hi Andrea,

      I’m going to disagree with you on this one because he was in the hospital sooooo long. Epidural hematomas are considered neurosurgical emergencies. They don’t wax and wane symptomatically over a period of several months which was the course of Mark’s hospitalization. I don’t know if you remember some of the conversations surrounding him and Dr. Weber– but Weber comments that essentially the character was giving up and that ultimately he died of some cardiac issue that was unfixable. To my point, it seemed odd for an *amazing* hospital not to try to save him if it was a cardiac issue.

      Thanks for your comment. This is one of my most popular posts and I’m always interested to see what theories people are considering since it OBVIOUSLY (yes, television writers!) wasn’t clear in the episode.


  9. I’m really late to the party…I stopped watching the show way back around 2008. I figured why bother picking it up again because who has the time to watch literally hundreds of episodes? However COVID-19 changed that. I’d like to say first that Lexie and Sloan were my favorites and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I cried like a baby when they both died and felt the loss for the next day or so. I guess that is good writing for sure! I am not a medical expert and I am happy that I found this page because the same question has been haunting me. I wish they would have given us a solid reason because it will forever be a question in my mind. Thank you for everyone’s input however. Now on to the next 12 seasons!


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