On Wednesday morning, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had emergency surgery to place a stent in her heart. The famously tough judge is expected to be back at the bench on Monday despite the seriousness of the surgery and its sudden nature. Ginsburg has had previous health scares and there has been plenty of speculation that she will soon retire. But she has denied any reason for her to step down and maintains that her energy is as good as ever. She has also noted that if she were to retire, her replacement would face a difficult confirmation process.
Ginsburg was taken to hospital early Wednesday morning after feeling discomfort during exercise. The 81-year-old was diagnosed with angina due to constricting of the arteries. A stent was placed in her right coronary artery in order to open it up and bring the heart back to its full capacity. This was an unexpected occurrence, especially since the Supreme Court justice is in relatively good health for her age. She exercises regularly and has even pulled an all-nighter to work on a court opinion earlier this year. In many ways, she outdoes her younger counterparts for drive and vigor.
Her previous medical concerns, however, have been quite extreme. She has survived both colon and pancreatic cancer, though she still managed to fulfill the court’s schedule during treatment. The force of her will is impressive for a woman at an age when most other people are comfortably retired. According to her, she has made only a few adjustments to her lifestyle due to age. She has had to give up water-skiing, saying that “those days are over.”
Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993 was not without its controversy. She is the first judge to be appointed by a Democratic president since Thurgood Marshall in 1967. She was followed by the appointment of Justice Stephen Breyer in 1994, who was another Clinton appointee. But appointments like these may be few and far between for the next few years, as Ginsburg is well aware. Part of the reason for this is the gridlock in Washington between the GOP and the Democrats. Now that both the Senate and the House are controlled by Republicans, it seems even less likely than an Obama appointee would be confirmed.
She has been realistic about her future in the Supreme Court, however, noting that any decisions about her future would depend on the state of her health, which she takes good care of. She exercises regularly and has a personal trainer who she calls her “physical fitness guardian.” She also has regular screenings at the National Institutes of Health. Since being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999, she has gone for regular screenings. This allowed doctors to catch the pancreatic cancer she had in 2009 at an early stage which made treatment much easier. Despite having emergency surgery the day before Thanksgiving, Ruth Bader Ginsburg reports that she is resting comfortably and will be back to hear a case on Facebook and the First Amendment on Monday.
By Lydia Bradbury
Photo by Wake Forest School of Law – Flickr License