MONTREAL, January 30, 2006 ( –Â A Montreal woman, Marielle Houle, who pleaded guilty to killing her son Charles Fariala using sleeping pills and a plastic bag, has been sentenced to three years probation. Houle had pleaded guilty to a charge of assisting the suicide of her son, a playwright and student suffering from multiple sclerosis and apparent depression. The maximum penalty for assisted suicide is 14 years.

Houle’s lawyer, Salvatore Mascia, described her crime as an act of “unconditional love.” The Crown, however, said that while Houle’s intentions may have been “compassionate,” Canada is not a society that tolerates euthanasia. The court’s leniency was likely due to Houle’s “fragile” mental and physical health.

Alex Schadenberg, head of Ontario’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told that not only should a more serious penalty be leveled, Houle should have been charged with second degree murder.

“It’s only suicide when you do it to yourself,” Schadenberg said. “But in the court hearings, Houle admitted that she put the bag over his head. When he fell asleep, then she put the bag over his head and tied it tight. If he died of suffocation, it was murder not assisted suicide.”

The executive director of the Canadian euthanasia advocacy group, Dying with Dignity, said in a radio interview that Fariala would not have qualified for assisted suicide according to their rules which require that a person be no more than six months away from death from a terminal illness.

Diane Rivard spokesman for Canada’s MS society in Quebec, said Houle’s case is tragic and she didn’t deserve a severe sentence but that the case highlights the need for better home care and support for people diagnosed with incurable, but livable, diseases like MS.

Rivard said, “We want people to know that after a diagnosis of MS there is still a good life, an active life.”

Schadenberg, however, said that the three year probation fails as a deterrent and that his group will be demanding a federal review. He said, “We understand the health condition of Houle but we also recognize that if there is no deterrent for the act of assisted suicide that there may be others who will follow Houle’s lead.”

“We are going to ask the new minister of justice, when he or she is appointed, that his case be reviewed. It is up to them to do the right thing. On February 6th, the new justice minister is going to receive a formal request for a review because there is no deterrent involved in this case,” said Schadenberg.