01/17/2014 15:09 EST | Updated 03/19/2014 05:59 EDT

Francine Lalonde, ex-MP who championed assisted suicide, dies

Francine Lalonde, the former Quebec MP who tried unsuccessfully to have a right-to-die bill passed by Parliament, has died of bone cancer, the Bloc Québécois announced today.

The 73 year-old died shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear an appeal about whether the prohibition against assisted suicide is constitutional.

Lalonde, an 18-year veteran of the House of Commons, opted not to run in the last general election due to the recurrence of her disease. The BQ, in a news release Friday, said she'd had cancer for seven years.

She was one of the few federal politicians willing to take on the controversial assisted suicide issue and although her party supported her, most of her fellow MPs did not.

Both her bills were defeated

In 2009 and again in 2010 she introduced two private member's bills allowing legally assisted suicide for someone who is seriously ill. Both bills were defeated.

During the April 2010 vote in the House of Commons – Lalonde's second attempt to have right-to-die legislation passed – a handful of Conservative, Liberal and NDP members supported her, but the bill didn't make it past second reading. 

NDP MPs Olivia Chow and Megan Leslie, as well as Liberal MP John McCallum, supported her bill.

Gilles Duceppe, former leader of the Bloc Québécois, told Radio-Canada Friday that Lalonde was determined to lead the fight to die with dignity, which she proved until the very end, he said.

He also said Lalonde was proud of Veronique Hivon, the Quebec politician who has managed to take an assisted suicide bill as far as committee stage in the Quebec national assembly, which means it has passed two readings.

Lalonde might have been gratified by the Supreme Court's decision announced hours before her own death. On Thursday, the top court agreed to hear an appeal in an assisted suicide case from British Columbia.

It will be the first time the top court has reviewed the issue of assisted suicide since it ruled against Sue Rodriguez, who was dying of Lou Gehrig's disease over 20 years ago. In the split five-four decision, Beverley McLachlin, now the chief justice of the Supreme Court, voted in favour of Rodriguez.  

The federal government maintains that the Rodriguez decision is the end of the debate, and argued against the the B.C. lower court's decision to overturn the ban on assisted suicide. The provincial appeals court reversed the decision which is now being appealed to the Supreme Court.