The Slatest

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Just Got Treated for Lung Cancer. Don’t Freak Out.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses for the official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on November 30, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg poses for the official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on Nov. 30. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery on Friday to remove two malignant nodules from her lung. According to Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg, the operation was successful, and there is “no evidence of any remaining disease.”

Ginsburg, 85, has already survived two bouts with cancer. In 1999, she was successfully treated for colon cancer, and in 2009, she received surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation for pancreatic cancer. (Only about 8 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer survive more than five years beyond the operation.) She also had a heart stent implanted in November 2014. During these treatments, Ginsburg did not miss a single day on the bench.

Advertisement

Doctors discovered the malignant nodules in Ginsburg’s lungs while treating the ribs she broke during a fall on Nov. 7. Surgeons performed a pulmonary lobectomy to remove them. Arberg told the press that “there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body,” and “no further treatment is planned.” Ginsburg will rest in the hospital for several days before returning home.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Some progressives have sharply criticized Ginsburg for declining to retire under President Barack Obama, risking the possibility that President Donald Trump could instead name her replacement. Mother Jones’ Stephanie Mencimer recently described this choice as the justice’s “one truly terrible” decision, one that could “sorely tarnish” her legacy. Mencimer implied that Ginsburg is losing steam, asserting that “her speech is increasingly difficult to understand” on the bench. Conservatives have long mocked her for falling asleep during one State of the Union address, a snooze she attributed to too much wine.

Advertisement
Advertisement

As a frequent attendee of oral arguments, I find these rumors of Ginsburg’s declining stamina strange. Ginsburg may have an old-school Brooklyn accent, but she’s sharp and trenchant on the bench; just this month, she teamed up with Justice Neil Gorsuch to attack a terrible double jeopardy loophole. (You can listen here.) She also remains the court’s most efficient writer, producing crisp opinions at a remarkable clip. Even with periodic health scares, the justice is as efficient as ever. And when the Supreme Court reconvenes in January, it seems almost certain that she will be in her seat next to the chief justice, lobbing tough questions at both sides.

Advertisement