In 16th Century Holland, Dirk Willems, an Anabaptist, was arrested by the Dutch state for his religious dissent. An opportunity to escape arose and he fled across a frozen lake, chased by a guard. Willems abandoned his escape when he heard his pursuer fall through the thin ice and cry for help. Knowing the dangers, Willems returned and rescued the guard. He was taken back into custody, tortured, and later executed.
In 1897, when Henry George made his second run for mayor of New York City, he was told that it might cost him his life.
George, a lifelong smoker, had already suffered a stroke and his doctors warned him that the stress of a political campaign would likely be fatal. He responded “but I have got to die. How can I die better than serving humanity?”
George spared no effort in his campaign and pushed himself to his physical limits. He died after giving four public speeches in a 24 hour period, four days before the election.