US Supreme Court’s Ginsburg undergoing treatment for cancer recurrence

FILE PHOTO: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attends the lunch session of The Women’s Conference in Long Beach, California October 26, 2010.

WASHINGTON: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 87 the US Supreme Court’s oldest member, said on Friday (Jul 17) she is receiving chemotherapy treatment for a recurrence of cancer – the latest in a series of health issues – but indicated no intention to retire.

In a statement released by the court, Ginsburg said that a periodic scan in February, followed by a biopsy, revealed lesions on her liver and that she began her chemotherapy on May 19. She said the treatment is yielding positive results and that she will continue it on a biweekly basis.

“I am tolerating chemotherapy well and am encouraged by the success of my current treatment,” Ginsburg said.

“I have 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,” Ginsburg added.

The health of Ginsburg, the court’s senior liberal member, is closely watched because a Supreme Court vacancy could give Republican President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a third justice to the nine-member court and move it further to the right.

The court currently has a 5-4 conservative majority including two justices appointed by Trump – Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

Ginsburg experienced a bout with lung cancer in 2018 and pancreatic cancer in 2019. She had previously been treated for pancreatic cancer in 2009 and colon cancer in 1999.

On Wednesday, Ginsburg was released from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after treatment for a possible infection, having undergone a procedure to clean a bile duct stent that was inserted last August. In May, she underwent non-surgical treatment for a gallstone that had caused an infection. Ginsburg said those two hospitalisations were unrelated to this cancer recurrence.

“SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION”

In this latest cancer fight, Ginsburg said, immunotherapy proved unsuccessful, but she is now being treated with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine. That drug is approved for use in breast, lung, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, and is also being studied in other forms of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Ginsburg said that her most recent scan on Jul 7 indicated “significant reduction of the liver lesions” and no new disease.

“Satisfied that my treatment course is now clear, I am providing this information,” Ginsburg added.

Ginsburg began receiving chemotherapy six days after the court completed hearing a number of oral arguments in cases by teleconference for the first time in its history in response to health concerns raised by the coronavirus pandemic.

During those arguments, she participated fully and asked questions of lawyers arguing the cases. The court completed its nine-month term on Jul 9, issuing a last round of rulings.

Ginsburg indicated that she has been able to keep up with her work at the court, including writing opinions in cases, throughout the treatment course. “I will continue bi-weekly chemotherapy to keep my cancer at bay, and am able to maintain an active daily routine,” she added.

Ginsburg is the second-longest serving among the current nine justices behind Clarence Thomas, having been appointed to a lifetime post on the court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the second woman ever named to the court, after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed 12 years earlier.

A trail-blazing lawyer who won gender equality cases at the Supreme Court in the 1970s, as a justice she has provided key votes in landmark rulings securing equal rights for women, expanding gay rights and safeguarding abortion rights.

In the last month of its most recent term, the Supreme Court delivered a series of setbacks to Trump and his administration in pivotal cases, including rejecting his sweeping claim of presidential immunity from criminal investigation.

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