Fervid speculation as to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s well-being was set off in December when the Supreme Court abruptly announced that she was being treated for lung cancer.
Though a positive prognosis has since allayed the worst fears of Ginsburg’s admirers, her continued struggles broach important but little-discussed questions about judicial fitness in an era when unprecedented longevity often entails sudden declines in mental and physical faculties.
Those questions are hardly theoretical: The modern history of the Supreme Court is replete with examples of real or perceived incapacity among the justices, who alone decide when to leave active service.
Ginsburg had two cancerous nodules removed from her lungs at the Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in December 2018, in a procedure called a pulmonary lobectomy. The cancerous growths were discovered when Ginsburg was hospitalized for rib fracturesresulting from a fall in her chambers at the high court.