The Rev. Mr. Michael Brungardt lifts the Easter candle during the Holy Saturday liturgy at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He is shining the light on physician assisted suicide with a recently published article. (Advance photo)

The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly recently published an article, “A Study of Accompaniment at the End of Life,” by Deacon Michael G. Brungardt.
The article distinguishes the need for “a truly ethical response” and an “authentic, loving accompaniment” of those who are in the dying process, Deacon Brungardt writes. “Emphasis is often placed on the care of circumstances rather than the care of persons.”
The article stems from his study of the “right to die” and “death with dignity” movements that seem to be gaining in popularity in the United States and in Europe. Several states already have legalized suicide laws.
Accompanying a dying person will likely be uncomfortable and awkward, he said.
“We can’t always just provide that simple answer that makes everything OK, but what we can do is stay right alongside them and take seriously these questions that they’re asking,” he said.
Family members and friends can be with them by allowing the questions that are challenging the dying also challenge those accompanying the dying.
“Because when we start to enter into those questions – that’s the accompaniment I’m talking about. We can truly enter into their suffering because, when we finally get down to it, they’re not the only ones who have to struggle with that question. We have to deal with them as well. So, that’s truly a very concrete way that we can be with people in these moments.”
Deacon Brungardt spends most of his time in the article discussing the fear and anxiety that most people face as they are dying.
“Yet because death, which exacerbates these questions, has been reduced to a technical-biological reality, we ‘shrink from being fully alive’; we shrink throughout our lives, but especially at the end of life or when we witnessed the end of another’s life.”
A common concern among the dying is the fear of losing one’s dignity, he writes, or dignity is associated with being in control of oneself, one’s bodily functions, or how people perceive the dying.
In addition the dying desire autonomy which results in a desire to avoid death as something which happens to them. “Put another way,” Deacon Brungardt, quoting another writer on the subject says,“those who make the argument for PAS (physician-assisted suicide) from autonomy are not really arguing that they should be able to die as they see fit, but rather that they should be able ‘to avoid dying,’ to avoid this experience altogether.”
To allow physician-assisted suicide is nonsensical, he writes, because it is not a response to the problem and is not a treatment.
Loved ones, instead, are called to play an important role with those who are dying, he writes.
“Their role, like that of the doctors, is also one of accompaniment, albeit of a different nature. In this case, true loving accompaniment dictates a total giving of oneself to the other person, in such a way that a coexistence of persons results.”
Deacon Brungardt closes his article by quoting Pope Francis’2015 exhortation to the Pontifical Academy for Life: “The objective of palliative care is to alleviate suffering in the final stages of illness and at the same time to ensure the patient appropriate human accompaniment.”
Loving accompaniment, he writes, is “not consenting to the easy way or the path of least resistance, but being with them as they engage the questions at the core of their humanity, entering that questioning with them.”

More about the Rev. Mr. Brungardt
The Mundelein Seminary student is a member of Church of the Magdalen in Wichita. His father, Dr. Gerard Brungardt of Wichita, sparked his interest in the subject. Dr. Brungardt, a physician, holds a licentiate degree in bioethics from the Pontifical Athanaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
Deacon Brungardt is a candidate for a licentiate in sacred theology and at Mundelein, located north of Chicago, and is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood May 26 at his home parish.