Husband Could Face Murder Charges For Assisting In Wife's
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 12, 2005
MONTREAL, QUEBEC--Prosecutors are expected to file new charges against Andre Bergeron, 46, who was charged last Friday with assisting in the attempted suicide of his wife, Marielle Houle.
Mrs. Houle, 44, died Sunday in a local hospital three days after she had fallen into a coma apparently from suffocating.
Prosecutors were waiting Monday for results from the autopsy and a psychiatric assessment of Bergeron before deciding what charge should replace attempted murder. Investigators believe Bergeron suffocated Houle with a plastic bag.
Bergeron called for an ambulance Thursday afternoon, saying he had just killed his wife. Emergency workers found Houle still alive, but not breathing, and transported her to the hospital. She reportedly did not regain consciousness.
According to various news accounts, Houle had Friedreich ataxia, a rare, degenerative condition that affects the nervous system. The genetic illness affects about one in 50,000 Canadians.
Bergeron's defense attorney, Jean Couture, told reporters his client's actions were based on compassion and love for his wife.
While it is not illegal to commit suicide in Canada, assisting in a suicide currently carries a maximum 14-year prison term. The case has again sparked debate over whether assisted suicide, or "mercy killing", should be legalized in certain circumstance.
Prentis Clairmont, 32, who is with the National Ataxia Foundation, told CBC news: "I know euthanasia and mercy killing are very complex issues. But I wouldn't want anyone trying to decide that my quality of life is not as good as theirs."
"I'm extremely sad," said Claremont, who was diagnosed with Friedreich ataxia 14 years ago. "It's personal to me because I know that some day I may reach the same stage where she was at and I'm wondering what I would do in that situation."
Bergeron is free on bail, but is expected to return to court on September 8.
Houle's death is the second high-profile case of assisted suicide in Quebec during the past year. Another Marielle Houle, 59, who has the same name as Bergeron's late wife, is facing criminal charges for assisting in the suicide of her son, Charles Fariala, 36, who had multiple sclerosis.
Margaret Somerville, a McGill University law professor, said she would oppose any attempts to legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia.
"Studies have shown that people who say they want to die change their minds every 12 hours," Somerville told the Montreal Gazette. "An aging society, scarce health-care resources and euthanasia are a lethal combination. In the Netherlands, even some disabled babies have been euthanized."
Many disability groups have opposed legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada and elsewhere, claiming such laws endanger the lives of people with severe disabilities.
"Quebec woman's family rallies behind husband accused in her death" (MacLeans)
"Assisted-suicide victim lived final days in agony" (Montreal Gazette)