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Critical illness is not a discrete disease state or syndrome. It is the culmination of a multiplicity of heterogeneous disease states and their varied health trajectories leading to extreme illness that requires advanced life support in a distinct geographic location in the hospital. It is a marker of newly acquired or worsened medical complexity and multimorbidities. Fifty years ago, distinguished critical care colleagues identified a syndrome of severe lung injury that united a group of patients with disparate admitting diagnoses. Acute respiratory distress syndrome continues to represent an important, incremental insult and risk modifier of acute and longer-term outcome, but it does not solely define our patients or their outcomes in isolation. Over the next 50 years, our research and clinical agenda needs to sharpen our lens on the fundamental importance of our patients' pre-critical illness health status, their intrinsic susceptibilities to tissue injury, and their innate and varied resiliencies. We need to take responsibility for the contribution that we make to morbidity through our practice in the intensive care unit each day. Engagement in frank and transparent communication with our patients and their caregivers about the very real and morbid consequences of being this sick is essential. We must enforce explicit consent about the morbidity of innovative, experimental, or high-risk medical and surgical procedures and ensure that our ongoing level of treatment aligns with patients' and caregivers' goals and values. Interprofessional and multidisciplinary collaboration is crucial to modify existing complex care pathways for our patients and their families to foster optimal rehabilitation and reintegration into the workplace and community.