Arthur Koestler (1905-1983) committed suicide. His wife too committed suicide on the same day.
Koestler was a great writer. Parkinson’s disease and leukaemia enervated his spirits. Below is an extract from the suicide note he wrote.
Trying to commit suicide is a gamble the outcome of which will be known to the gambler only if the attempt fails, but not if it succeeds. Should this attempt fail and I survive it in a physically or mentally impaired state, in which I can no longer control what is done to me, or communicate my wishes, I hereby request that I be allowed to die in my own home and not be resuscitated or kept alive by artificial means.
My reasons for deciding to put an end to my life are simple and compelling: Parkinson's disease and the slow-killing variety of leukaemia (CCI). I kept the latter a secret even from intimate friends to save them distress. After a more or less steady physical decline over the last years, the process has now reached an acute state with added complications which make it advisable to seek self-deliverance now, before I become incapable of making the necessary arrangements.
Cynthia, Koestler’s wife, added her own note below her husband’s:
I fear both death and the act of dying that lies ahead of us. I should have liked to finish my account of working for Arthur – a story which began when our paths happened to cross in 1949. However, I cannot live without Arthur, despite certain inner resources.
Double suicide has never appealed to me, but now Arthur's incurable diseases have reached a stage where there is nothing else to do.
The Supreme Court of India is contemplating legalisation of passive euthanasia.
Hastening the death of a person by altering some form of support and letting nature take its course is known as passive euthanasia. Examples include such things as turning off respirators, halting medications, discontinuing food and water so as to allowing a person to dehydrate or starve to death, or failure to resuscitate.
Active euthanasia involves causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person.
What Koestler and his wife chose was active euthanasia. What the Supreme Court of India seeks to usher in is passive euthanasia. I personally advocate the legalisation of both the types but with the necessary conditions and restrictions.
Life is to be relished not suffered. If a person comes to the situation that Koestler found himself in, why not let him die provided he chooses death with full knowledge of what he is doing? It would be an act of kindness to let him die. Why not be kind?
However, I have never understood why Cynthia Koestler had to die on the same day. She was just 55 and not suffering from any fatal illness. Koestler was an eccentric man especially where his relationships with women were concerned. Did he impose his will on Cynthia? Did he want her to die with him? Cynthia’s note almost implies that.
I won’t ever support the kind of euthanasia that anyone forces on anyone else. Cynthia has the right to live if she so chooses as much as Arthur has the right to die if he so chooses.
Choice, that’s what I advocate. People should be allowed to live or die as long as they are sane enough to make the choice.
One of the paradoxes of human life that I have always failed to understand is this: we have no qualms about killing hundreds or thousands of people in acts of violence such as communal riots, political wars, and terrorist attacks. Millions and millions of people have died in such acts perpetrated by man. And yet, when a sane person desires to bid good bye to something he cannot value any more, something that has become an unbearable pain to him, why not let him go?
I am a staunch advocate of euthanasia. Not just passive euthanasia. I would like to choose my own death when the time comes.