The SF Gate reports that a judge has thrown out a felony manslaughter charge against a man who says he was just helping his wife to commit suicide and stop her suffering. In Santa Rosa, David Clement, 65, will still face a felony charge of aiding suicide, but the maximum sentence in case of a conviction is only three years. Manslaughter can be punishable by up to 11 years.

Clement was arrested in January after calling 911 and reporting that he helped Debra Bales, 52, commit suicide. A recording of the phone call was played in court.

Clement told investigators that Bales had relied on powerful pain killers for over 20 years, and couldn’t take them any longer. She underwent surgery in 2000 and had suffered from chronic pain ever since. She was also reliant on anxiety medications.

Her quality of life had reduced to being bedridden, having painful constipation and suffering from terrible nausea, according to Clement.

Defense attorneys argued that the prosecution had no evidence that Clement participated in the death.

A judge denied Clement’s attempt at entering a no-contest plea in court last week after prosecutors said they needed more time to prepare. Notes written by Bales were found that seemed to outline different methods of killing herself.

The District Attorney is trying to determine if there are any legal grounds to appeal the decision to throw out the manslaughter charge. In California, assisting in suicide is illegal; however, there is a law that allows terminally ill patients over 18 to request life-ending medication from their doctor.

*Photo credit Hearst Communications, Inc.