Multicellular organisms have evolved multiple genetically programmed cell death pathways that are essential for homeostasis. The finding that many viruses encode cell death inhibitors suggested that cellular suicide also functions as a first line of defence against invading pathogens. This theory was confirmed by studying viral mutants that lack certain cell death inhibitors. Cytomegaloviruses, a family of species-specific viruses, have proved particularly useful in this respect. Cytomegaloviruses are known to encode multiple death inhibitors that are required for efficient viral replication. Here, we outline the mechanisms used by the host cell to detect cytomegalovirus infection and discuss the methods employed by the cytomegalovirus family to prevent death of the host cell. In addition to enhancing our understanding of cytomegalovirus pathogenesis we detail how this research has provided significant insights into the cross-talk that exists between the various cell death pathways.