Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed Friday that she has been undergoing treatment for liver cancer, but that she plans to continue on the Supreme Court and “can do the job full steam.”
The health concerns of the consistently liberal 87-year-old justice, which have accelerated in recent years, arise at a critical political moment with a looming presidential election in November.
Ginsburg's latest round with cancer could elevate Supreme Court appointments as a key campaign issue between Republican President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Ginsburg presumably does not want to leave the court and give an appointment to Trump, whom she criticized and called a “faker” in remarks during the 2016 presidential election that she would later characterize as “ill-advised.”
Trump already put two relatively young, consistently conservative justices on the court in Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, and a third appointment would further solidify the court’s conservative tilt.
“I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam,” Ginsburg said in a news release. “I remain fully able to do that.”
Ginsburg described how she began a course of chemotherapy in May that is “yielding positive results.” A most recent scan on July 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 said. “I will continue bi-weekly chemotherapy to keep my cancer at bay, and am able to maintain an active daily routine.”
Ginsburg added that she kept up with opinion writing and all other court work throughout her treatment, which included a busy end of the term this month.
The liver cancer treatment is unrelated to recent hospitalizations to remove gallstones and treat an infection, Ginsburg said, for which she was released from the hospital Wednesday.
In December 2018, Ginsburg fell and fractured several ribs, and doctors found lung cancer that was removed surgically, causing her to miss oral arguments for the first time since she was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
In August 2019, Ginsburg underwent three weeks of radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer. She had surgery in 2009 for pancreatic cancer, and was treated for colon cancer in 1999.