A one-year prison sentence given to a 66-year-old man who fatally shot his ailing wife indicates society's tragic inability to deal sensitively with terminally ill people, says the head of the Hemlock Society of Washington.

Wallace Jones, 66, a retired lawyer, was sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in prison for killing his bedridden wife last June in an alleged "mercy killing.""I think we've just seen a great difficulty with the reality of determinate sentencing in our state," said Hemlock Society president Ralph Mero outside the courtroom. "It seems to me that this is not only a family tragedy, it's a community tragedy, it's a tragedy for all of us in Washington."

The Hemlock Society advocates giving doctors the authority to help terminally ill patients end their lives under certain conditions.

"As the judge said, there's no question at all that this man (Jones) deeply loved his wife, cared for her to the best of his abilities and cracked under strain doing that. It's a tragedy that we have now no alternative but to put such a man in jail," Mero said.