Together with the Archdiocese of New York, the New York State Catholic Conference had filed an amicus brief with the court, explaining the Church's reasons for opposing assisted suicide. They also contacted 40 physicians who filed their own briefs with the court, arguing as physicians that legalized assisted suicide would corrupt the practice of medicine.
"We felt that was really important to get the medical community on record" opposing assisted suicide, Gallagher said.
Since the highly-publicized assisted suicide case of Brittany Maynard in 2014, which ignited a global push for legalized assisted suicide, Gallagher said the Catholic Conference has been preparing to oppose such measures in New York. The conference has partnered with numerous other groups, including physicians, disability groups, hospice groups and patients rights advocacy groups, who all oppose assisted suicide for various reasons.
"We've worked hard with other organizations to fight this so that it wouldn't just be the Catholic Church, and it has worked really well," she said.
Together, these organizations formed the advocacy group New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, whose collaboration on legal and educational projects continues to strengthen and grow, Gallagher said.
"The Church speaks from its moral teachings, but that's not always persuasive in the legislative arena, (so it's) extremely helpful to have these other voices."
But the fight is far from over. Both Gallagher and Mechmann said they anticipate that advocacy groups will continue to push legalized assisted suicide in the upcoming legislative sessions.
To that end, Gallagher and Mechmann said much more needs to be done when it comes to raising awareness of and providing education on the issue and among Catholics.
One of the biggest misconceptions about assisted suicide, Mechmann said, is that most people think it is about alleviating the physical suffering of the dying, when in reality, most pain can be managed with palliative care. Most people who choose assisted suicide cite a feeling of a loss of meaning, and the desire to not be a burden on loved ones.
The solution to this suffering is not death, Mechmann noted, but the support of friends and family.
"It's really what the Holy Father talks about when he talks about accompaniment – we need to assure people that their family and their community and their parish will stand with them and walk with them when the end of life approaches," he said.
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"It's a real challenge to us lay people as Catholics, we really have to step up and make sure that our family and friends know that we'll be with them, that's ultimately the solution."
He added that the archdiocese has put together educational forums on the issue, including legal analysis and explanations of assisted suicide as well as real-life stories from the terminally ill who have rejected assisted suicide, or people who have experienced a good death of a loved one.
"We try to tell people the other side of the story, which is the people who have had good and holy deaths, and how beautiful and what a moment of grace that is for family members," he said.
"That's a message that resonates with people."
Mary Farrow worked as a staff writer for Catholic News Agency until 2020. She has a degree in journalism and English education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.