Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced Friday that she began treatment earlier this year for liver cancer. The 87-year-old justice, who has battled cancer on four previous occasions, indicated that chemotherapy is “yielding positive results,” and she emphasized that she remains “fully able” to do her job.
In a statement released by the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office, Ginsburg revealed that a scan in February, which was followed by a biopsy, had revealed lesions on her liver. Although immunotherapy was not successful, Ginsburg said, she began chemotherapy on May 19. She is “tolerating chemotherapy well” and is “encouraged by the success of” her current treatment; moreover, she added, a scan on July 7 “indicated significant reduction of the liver lesions and no new disease.” She will “continue bi-weekly chemotherapy to keep my cancer at bay,” and is “able to maintain an active daily routine.” “Throughout,” she stressed, she has “kept up with opinion writing and all other court work.”
In what can only be interpreted as a parting shot at conservatives hoping that Ginsburg might step down from the court, giving President Donald Trump the opportunity to name her replacement, Ginsburg reiterated that she had “often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that.”
Before Friday’s press release, Ginsburg had already disclosed two other stints in the hospital this year. In May, Ginsburg was treated for what was described as a benign gall-bladder condition, prompting her to participate in oral arguments by telephone from the hospital. And earlier this week, Ginsburg stayed overnight for treatment of a possible infection and to clean out a bile duct stent that was placed last year, when she was treated for a tumor on her pancreas. Both of those hospitalizations, Ginsburg said in her statement Friday, “were unrelated to this recurrence.”
Ginsburg was treated for cancer three other times before the pancreatic tumor last summer: She had surgery in December 2018 to remove cancerous growths from her lungs, had an earlier bout with pancreatic cancer in 2009, and was treated in 1999 for colon cancer. She also underwent heart surgery in 2014.
When it comes to disclosing details regarding her health, Ginsburg has generally been among the most transparent justices. In her statement on Friday, Ginsburg indicated that she was providing information regarding her treatment now – two months after she began chemotherapy and five months after the initial scan – because she is satisfied that her “treatment course is now clear.” The disclosure comes 10 days after the Washington Post reported that Chief Justice John Roberts was injured in June in a fall and stayed overnight at a local hospital. The Supreme Court did not make any information about the fall available at the time; the court confirmed it only in response to an inquiry from the Post, which received a tip.
The Supreme Court began its summer recess last week. This week has been anything but quiet, however, with the justices fielding several requests for emergency relief – two of which culminated in early-morning rulings clearing the way for the federal government to resume executions after a 17-year hiatus. Ginsburg joined dissents from both of those rulings.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.