WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 87 the US Supreme Court’s oldest member, said on Friday (July 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.
She said she is tolerating the chemotherapy treatment well and that it is yielding positive results.
She said she began her chemotherapy on May 19.
“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 said.
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.
On Wednesday, Ginsburg was released from a hospital in Baltimore after treatment for a possible infection. She underwent a procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital to clean a bile duct stent that was inserted last August.
Ginsburg said recent hospitalisations to remove gall stones and treat an infection were unrelated to this cancer recurrence.
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. In May, she underwent non-surgical treatment for a gallstone that had caused an infection.
In this latest cancer fight, Ginsburg said, immunotherapy proved unsuccessful, but with chemotherapy her 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 added.
Ginsburg said 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.