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Senator Gives Justice Ginsburg Likely Nine Months to Live

Posted Feb 23, 2009 9:03 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made a career of defying expectations for women. More than nine months from now, she will get a chance to prove wrong a Republican senator who over the weekend predicted her death from pancreatic cancer.

In a speech on Saturday, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., said the court is likely to have a vacancy within nine months, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. The senator said he supports conservative judges, and a vacancy is "going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer."

"Bad cancer. The kind that you don't get better from," he said, according to the Courier-Journal account. "Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after [being diagnosed] with pancreatic cancer," he said.

Ginsburg had surgery for Stage 1 pancreatic cancer on Feb. 5, but she had vowed to be back on the job when the U.S. Supreme Court reconvenes this week. Surgeons removed Ginsburg’s spleen and a malignant tumor less than 1 centimeter in size from her pancreas.

Ginsburg made good on her pledge, returning to the bench today.

Not long after, Bunning issued an apology to the justice: "I apologize if my comments offended Justice Ginsburg. That certainly was not my intent. It is great to see her back at the Supreme Court today and I hope she recovers quickly. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."

The Courier-Journal story reports on figures from the American Cancer Society, which says the chances of living for more than five years range from 21 percent to 37 percent for people with Stage 1 pancreatic cancer. The Hill notes that mortality rates are high for pancreatic cancer, but says the liberal justice a better chance for survival because the cancer was caught “unusually early.”

Politico’s Scorecard blog also noted the story. Bunning, “already in political trouble for 2010, didn’t help matters any over the weekend,” Scorecard wrote.

Last updated to include Bunning's apology.

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