For people who have suffered a massive traumatic injury--from a car crash, building collapse, or other life-threatening event--modern health care is paradoxical in nature. While the emergency room is successful in prolonging lives, it is the body's system failures that eventually kill trauma patients. "If you look at the successes that medicine has had in our ability to capture individuals immediately after trauma, to resuscitate them, get them to the emergency room, we've been remarkably successful," says Lyle Moldawer, a surgery professor at the University of Florida.1 "We keep them alive and move them into the [intensive care] unit. [But] our ability to have a positive impact on those patients who are going to develop multi-system organ failure and succumb is really very, very modest."

Also known as multi-organ dysfunction syndrome, this gradual, then hasty, cessation of vital organs is a major cause of posttraumatic event death. The...

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