Mervyn Singer has published a review of multiple organ failure in patients with septic shock. Singer proposes that organ failure may represent a kind of organ hibernation that helps promote survival.
“In summary, there is significant evidence that implicates mitochondrial dysfunction in sepsis-induced organ dysfunction. Whether this is causative or epiphenomenal is less clear. However, survivors have better preservation of ATP, mitochondrial function, and biogenesis markers. Multi-organ failure may however represent a mechanism through which the likelihood of eventual survival is enhanced in those hardy enough to survive as cells may enter a “hibernating” state in the face of overwhelming inflammation.”
This view is a departure from the traditional view of organ failure as maladaptive harbinger of death.