Ginsburg Released From Hospital After Drug Reaction

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg i

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was briefly hospitalized Wednesday night after having a bad reaction to some medicine. Charles Dharapak/AP hide caption

toggle caption Charles Dharapak/AP
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was briefly hospitalized Wednesday night after having a bad reaction to some medicine.

Charles Dharapak/AP

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was resting at home Thursday after the kind of over-the-counter drug mishap that you wouldn't think would befall an otherwise-smart Supreme Court justice.

The story has a funny ending, but on Wednesday night it looked anything but. Ginsburg was headed, along with three other justices, to London for ceremonies marking the opening of the new British Supreme Court.

Planning to sleep on the plane, she took a prescription sleeping pill, and for good measure, added two over-the-counter nighttime pills containing antihistamines that were recommended to her by a friend.

As anyone who read the directions on the bottle would know, this kind of drug combination is not a good idea. But for a tiny 5-footer, it was an even worse idea, as Ginsburg would soon find out.

To put it artfully, she became extremely drowsy. To put it unartfully, she almost passed out, and before the plane took off, she fell out of her seat. Paramedics were immediately called and, accompanied by Justice Stephen Breyer, who went with her in the ambulance, Ginsburg was taken to Washington Hospital Center.

Doctors there evaluated the 76-year-old justice, attributed her symptoms to the drug combination, and pronounced her in stable health. They kept her overnight for observation and released her Thursday morning. Court sources say Ginsburg is home resting and plans to be back at the court working Friday.

This is the second time Ginsburg has been hospitalized in the past month. But last time, it was not her fault. In September, she became faint after an iron infusion to treat her chronic anemia.

In February, Ginsburg was operated on for pancreatic cancer. Doctors said they had removed all evidence of cancer and gave her unusually high odds of survival because the disease had been caught extraordinarily early. She was back at work 18 days later and has not missed a day on the bench since.

Wednesday's episode, while scary at the time, appears to be inconsequential, except to prove that even a Supreme Court justice doesn't read labels, or as Ginsburg said to a friend: "I was dumb."



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from