What I said to my state’s legislators about assisted suicide

March 1, 2017

New Mexico is known as the nation’s late-term abortion capital. No surprise, legislation is in motion here for physician assisted suicide. Bill HB-171 would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to patients they deem mentally competent and within six months of death. Patients then self-administer the drug.

Others were present—including physicians and attorneys—to offer their perspectives to our state’s Health Committee reviewing the bill. As a pastor representing Bible-believing evangelical Christians, these were the remarks I prepared:[1]

I’m here as a pastor from Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque. I also coordinate network of 30 pastors in our region. Representing these pastors and their churches, I stand in opposition to the End of Life Options Act.

I owe you three things this morning.

1. I owe you a word of thanks.

Thank you to the NM House Health Committee for seeking to discern and serve the best interests of our state. To the physicians who are with us, thank you for caring for the sick. Tyler is my 39-year-old brother. After multiple open-heart surgeries, he contracted meningitis in the hospital at 18 months old. Today he is severely mentally handicapped. You are brilliant, you work hard for us, you deal frequently in difficult ambiguities, and we need you. Thank you. To those here who have suffered and are suffering, we grieve with you. Death is cruel. As a pastor, I’ve seen it up close. This topic is not abstract to me or for any of us.

To the committee, I owe you a second thing.

2. I owe you a word of truth.

This bill springs from a noble motive and moral imperative: compassion. May we never tire of doing right from compassion. But it crosses a bright line that we shall not cross together, friends. Physicians should treat fellow human beings in the course of death. Physicians must never treat the suffering with death. This line is clear, ancient, tested, needed and unambiguous.

A familiar verse in scripture limits our choices in a compassionate way: “You shall not murder.” This is difficult to say, but suicide is self-murder, and assisted suicide—however motivated—is a form of murder. Job’s wife said to him, “curse God and die.” He did not. Rather, he “fear[ed] God and turn[ed] away from evil.” We are not self-created and so we shall not self-destruct.

Moral terms and categories fill this discussion; we need to reflect on this one.

God’s command against murder stands on two pillars.

Given human nature, while this bill has a compassionate beginning, it is fanciful thinking that this bill will serve only compassionate ends. As with any bill, we need to consider both the intentions of the bill, but also the unintended consequences that we can reasonably expect from this bill.

My friends, this is a bad bill. Like a Trojan horse, its protections conceal its deadly logic.

Let us pursue compassion, tirelessly! But, please, do not lead us into a partnership with death. Do not turn your head to the logic present in this bill and where it leads. Do not ask us to allow our doctors to prescribe deadly poison. Life is theirs to heal if they can. It is not theirs to take if they can’t.

3. I owe you a word of welcome.

If you are suffering, I welcome you to come into our churches; come to my church, and see how we love one another. See how we care for our sick, our elderly, our deformed, our orphans and widows, the poor, the weak. Let us love you. You are not a burden. Your life, every moment you have, is a blessing for us and a sacred trust.

If you care for the suffering, I welcome you to send them to our churches. We have an answer for hopelessness. A man walked through our door 18 months ago with terminal cancer. We helped him get right with people. More importantly we helped him get right with his Maker. He died a painful, terrible dead. I was there. It was also an honorable and dignified death.

We don’t help people die. We help people die well.

So, send us your suffering. We have something to offer them—we have Someone to offer them; a savior who suffered affliction and death; our great physician, who mends our souls even as our minds and bodies fail.

Finally, a word about Tyler

With dropping blood pressure, Tyler was taken from his nursing home to the ICU. A state away, my mom arrived five hours later. She had been through this before. But this time, when she arrived, no ordinary care was underway. Why not? Because Tyler had “do-not-resuscitate” orders. Which they translated into do-not-treat orders. Here are the words my mom—Tyler’s mom—heard when she arrived: “You have some decisions to make, ma’am. Think about the quality of his life.” Yet, they hadn’t taken the first step toward a diagnosis.

After several days, Tyler was sent home on hospice to die a painful death. That was 10 years ago, and he’s with us today. It was a mistake—a misdiagnosis. It was also a familiar experience. Tyler contracted meningitis as a baby because of a doctor’s mistake. We have never held it against the doctor. Medical professionals are marvelous human beings. And like all human beings, they are finite, and they are flawed.

A vote for this bill is a vote for its logic. And the logic of this bill has my brother in its crosshairs. No, this bill will not permit a prescription for my brother Tyler. But its logic, in due time, will.    

Death is an enemy. It is not an “option.” We reject The End of Life Options Act.


  1. ^ This is an expansion on what I was able to say that day. Time, in these circumstances, doesn't always allow a full testimony.

Trent Hunter

Trent Hunter serves as pastor for preaching and teaching at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, South Carolina. He is the author of Joshua (Crossway, 2016) and Graphical Greek: A Quick Reference Guide for Biblical Greek. He is also an instructor for the Simeon Trust workshops on biblical exposition. He is married to Kristi, and they have three children, … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24