It is controversial whether cells truly die via autophagy or whether - in dying cells - autophagy is merely an innocent bystander or a well-intentioned 'Good Samaritan' trying to prevent inevitable cellular demise. However, there is increasing evidence that the genetic machinery of autophagy may be essential for cell death in certain settings. We recently identified a novel form of autophagy gene-dependent cell death, termed autosis, which is mediated by the Na(+),K(+)-ATPase pump and has unique morphological features. High levels of cellular autophagy, as occurs with treatment with autophagy-inducing peptides, starvation, or in vivo during certain types of ischemia, can trigger autosis. These findings provide insights into the mechanisms and strategies for prevention of cell death during extreme stress conditions.