Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent the weekend in the hospital over concerns about a possible infection.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg whose health and longevity is probably one of the most-watched things in Washington these days was hospitalized on Friday night after complaining of ‘fever and chills’ late in the day:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Friday night with a possible infection, the Supreme Court said Saturday night, the latest health scare to confront the 86-year-old senior member of the court.
Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing, has been treated twice in the past year for cancer. She missed a recent session of the court’s arguments with what a spokeswoman described as a stomach bug, although she returned to the bench last week.
The court waited 24 hours before disclosing Ginsburg’s most recent health scare.
“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore last night after experiencing chills and fever earlier in the day,” the court said in a news release issued Saturday night.
“She was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., before being transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital for further evaluation and treatment of any possible infection. With intravenous antibiotics and fluids, her symptoms have abated and she expects to be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning. Further updates will be made when available,” it said.
At an appearance at the end of August, Ginsburg said that her work on the Supreme Court has “kept me going” through four bouts of cancer and that she was “on my way to being very well.”
The Supreme Court said Aug. 23 that Ginsburg had completed a three-week course of stereotactic ablative radiation therapy — a highly focused treatment that concentrates an intense dose of radiation on a tumor — after a malignancy was discovered on her pancreas.
It was the second treatment for cancer in nine months for Ginsburg. She had a portion of her left lung removed in December and in past decades was treated for colon and pancreatic cancer. She broke ribs in a fall in November 2018, which resulted in the discovery of the lung cancer.
But before a roaring crowd at the National Book Festival in Washington at the end of the summer, she declared: “This audience can see that I am alive.”
She has kept up a busy schedule of public speaking since then and has been through two sessions of the court’s oral arguments, though she missed one day of arguments because of flulike symptoms. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Ginsburg would participate in deciding the cases by reading the briefs and transcripts of the oral arguments.
She was on the bench Monday when the court met to issue orders and swear in new members of the Supreme Court bar.
Here’s the press release regarding Justice Ginsburg from the Supreme Court’s press office:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, last night after experiencing chills and fever earlier in the day. She was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. before being transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital for further evaluation and treatment of any possible infection. With intravenous antibiotics and fluids, her symptoms have abated and she expects to be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning. Further updates will be made when available
Based on the reports it does not appear that Justice Ginsburg’s condition is serious, but when you’re dealing with someone who is 85 years old and has the health history that Ginsburg has had in the past and most recently, it’s obviously better to play it safe. This is especially true given the medical history that Ginsburg has had just over the course of a year. It was just a year ago, of course, that she underwent treatment last December for what was described at the time as cancerous nodules on one of her lungs. That treatment was considered successful, but it did result in Ginsburg being unable to participate in most of the Court’s January sitting, although she did participate in the cases by reading the transcripts of argument and participating in the post-argument discussion of the cases with her colleagues via teleconference. Ginsburg was declared cancer-free from that December treatment in mid-January and seemed by all observers to be in fine health for the remainder of the term that ended in June. In August, she was treated for an early version of pancreatic cancer, a condition that is among the most serious forms of cancer given the fact that it is among the hardest to detect until it has essentially become untreatable. Fortunately, in Ginsburg’s case, it appears to have been caught at an early stage and she was able to return to the Court when the new term began in October and participate in all the oral arguments that have taken place since then. Prior to these incidents, Ginsburg had been treated for colon cancer in 1999 and early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009.
At 86, and on the verge of turning 87 in March, Ginsburg is the oldest and second-longest serving Justice on the Court today and is among the oldest Justices ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. Obviously, given her age and her medical history, any report regarding her health that results in hospitalization even as a precautionary measure. Chills and fever may seem like minor symptoms, they could easily be indicative of a viral or other infection that could be problematic for someone of advanced age, especially when they have an immune system that has been through four bouts with cancer over the past 20 years.
Additionally, Ginsburg’s advanced age and her previous medical history mean that any development like this raises concerns about her health and how long she might be able to continue serving on the Court. As I’ve noted before, she has given no indication that she intends to step down voluntarily any time soon, and has at least implicitly made it clear that she would not do so as long as Donald Trump was President. More specifically, she has said publicly that she intends to continue in her position as long as she believes she is able to continue doing the job. Here’s hoping that she’ll be healthy and ready to go when the Court reconvenes for the December round of oral argument beginning the week after Thanksgiving.
All of this goes a long way toward saying that the Supreme Court ought to be a far more important issue in the Presidential race than it already is. A good part of the reason for that has been the fact that, as a rule, Republicans have historically been much more organized about campaigning on the issue of judicial appointments than Democrats have been. It’s because of this that we’ve seen Trump and the Republican Senate confirm District Court and Court of Appeals Judges in record numbers, and why President Trump has already been able to appoint two Supreme Court Justices. Given that three of the nine Justices are over the age of 70 and two of them (Breyer and Ginsburg) are over 80, it’s likely that whoever wins the election in 2020 will have the opportunity to appoint additional Supreme Court Justices. We’ve already seen the importance of the Judiciary several times over the course of the Trump Presidency. Democrats would be wise to pay a lot more attention to this issue than they have in the past.
Update: CNN is reporting that Ginsburg has been released from the hospital as expected:
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital and is home after having experienced chills and a fever, the Supreme Court announced Sunday.”She is home and doing well,” A court spokeswoman said.
Ginsburg, 86, was initially evaluated at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, before being transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Friday night for treatment of any possible infection. The high court said Saturday that Ginsburg’s symptoms had abated after receiving IV antibiotics and fluids.
Her hospital trip came just days after Ginsburg returned to the bench after missing a day in court due to a stomach bug. On Friday, Ginsburg had participated in the regular closed-door conference with other justices, according to a court spokeswoman.
A four-time cancer survivor, Ginsburg has had a lengthy history of medical issues. In August, she was treated for pancreatic cancer, and last fall, nearly two months before she underwent surgery to remove the cancerous nodules, the liberal justice received treatment for three ribs she fractured during a fall in her office.
This is obviously good news and hopefully means that Ginsburg will remain in good health in the coming year.