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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resting at home today. That's after an over-the-counter drug mishap, not the sort you would expect to befall a person of Ginsburg's stature and smarts.
NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg explains what happened.
NINE TOTENBERG: This is a story with a funny ending, but last night it looked anything but funny. Justice 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, pills recommended to her by a friend. Now, as anyone would know who read the directions on the bottle, this kind of drug combo is not a good idea. But for a tiny five-footer, it's an even worse idea, as Ginsburg would soon find out.
To put it artfully, she became extremely drowsy. To put it unartfully, she almost literally 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. She 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 this morning. Court sources say Ginsburg is home today resting and plans to be back at the court working tomorrow.
This is the second time Justice Ginsburg has been hospitalized in the last month. But last time it was not her own fault. In September, she became faint after an iron infusion to treat her chronic anemia. Last February, Ginsburg was operated on for pancreatic cancer. At the time, 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. Last night'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.
Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
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