Genetic studies have identified over a dozen genes that function in programmed cell death (apoptosis) in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Although the ultimate effects on cell survival or engulfment of mutations in each cell death gene have been extensively described, much less is known about how these mutations affect the kinetics of death and engulfment, or the interactions between these two processes. We have used four-dimensional-Nomarski time-lapse video microscopy to follow in detail how cell death genes regulate the extent and kinetics of apoptotic cell death and removal in the early C. elegans embryo. Here we show that blocking engulfment enhances cell survival when cells are subjected to weak pro-apoptotic signals. Thus, genes that mediate corpse removal can also function to actively kill cells.