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Parts of the ACT VAD bill will be rewritten to make phrases clearer.

Parts of ACT’s voluntary assisted dying bill to be rewritten

Australian Capital Territory officials have been tasked to rewrite parts of the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) bill after an inquiry found phrases to be "vague".

A parliamentary inquiry last week found that a person's "last stages of life" and "advanced" condition were not clearly defined.

Unlike other jurisdictions, the ACT's eligibility criteria does not require an expected time frame to death; instead, the bill says a person must be in the "last stages of life".

Several groups who gave evidence to the inquiry said the term could create uncertainty, with Australian Centre for Health Law Research Professor Lindy Willmott saying different health professionals could have different views about what this means.

"The problems we have with the 'last stages of life' ... firstly, it will cause confusion and uncertainty for health professionals assessing eligibility," Professor Willmott said.

"We anticipate that different health professionals will have different views about when someone's in the last stages of life.

"We think [the current bill] has got the potential to cause confusion, and it is undesirable in that it might mean the ACT model becomes narrower than other jurisdictions."

Once the bill is passed, VAD will be available to Canberrans 18 months later.

ACT Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne has previously indicated that she would like the bill to be passed in the first half of 2024, so VAD would be available to Canberrans by late-2025.

"I welcome the inquiry report and the detailed considerations the committee has provided to this bill and its implementation," Ms Cheyne said in a statement.

"It is the government's intention to begin debating the Bill in the first half of the year.

"Passage of this Bill is within the remit of the Legislative Assembly, not the government."

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the bill would be debated "mid-year".

"We do expect we will be making some amendments so we will need to both respond to the report and be drafting those amendments," Ms Stephen-Smith told ABC Radio.

"We will do that as quickly as we can but I don't want to timeframe on that right now because we only got the report yesterday.

"I expect by mid-year the Assembly will be in a position to debate this bill."

The introduction of the bill comes almost a year after the federal parliament lifted a 25-year ban that prevented territories from legislating VAD.

VAD laws will be accessible to people over 18 who have an advanced and progressive condition expected to cause death, are intolerably suffering, are acting voluntarily and have decision-making capabilities throughout, and have lived in the ACT or can prove they have a connection to the territory.

If eligible, the patient would then need to go through what the government has called a "multi-step request and assessment process".

The assessment would be conducted by two health professionals, including nurse practitioners.

The government has four months to respond to the committee's report.

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