Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman currently serving on the Supreme Court, and only the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

She is one of my favorite Supreme Court Justices, the only one currently serving to have had a significant impact on American jurisprudence before her appointment. She argued the first six sex discrimination cases ever heard by the all-male Court, and won five of them. She was the chief litigator for the ACLU's Women's Rights Project. It was her idea to bring sex discrimination cases where the injured party was male and cases where the discrimination hurt the family. The most famous example of this approach is the case where a widower received a smaller Social Security benefit than a widow. This the Supreme Court could see as disrimination, and a precedent was set that has benefitted all victims of sex discrimination (most of them female) ever since.

Best wishes to Justice Ginsburg in her second cancer battle. She intends to be on the bench when the Court resumes in three weeks.

NPR: Justice Ginsburg Undergoes Cancer Surgery

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman currently serving on the nation's highest court, underwent surgery Thursday for removal of a cancerous tumor from her pancreas.


Ginsburg's pancreatic cancer was discovered early, in the course of a routine annual screening, but medical literature says even in this circumstance, a patient's five-year survival chances range from 10 to 30 percent.


The five-year survival rate is 5 percent, with most patients living less than a year. Doctors say this poor survival rate is due in significant part to the fact that cancers of the pancreas are discovered late, when the cancer is very advanced.

Because Ginsburg previously underwent radiation treatment after her colon surgery, she likely will not be able to have radiation treatment a second time. Chemotherapy has not proved to be curative for pancreatic cancer.

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