Physician viewpoint: Justice Ginsburg's health scares should not justify imposing routine screenings, term limits

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's recent health scares have prompted calls for potential term limits and mandatory routine medical exams for those serving in federal courts nationwide. However, one physician claims such measures are "misguided," NBC News reports.

Jalal Baig, MD, a physician at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote in an op-ed for NBC News that Congress' recent efforts to implement mandatory medical examinations and retirement ages for federal judiciary are not necessary, and that "adopting the black-and-white approaches that are not rooted in evidence-based medicine would set a dangerous national precedent."

He cites a recent analysis by The New York Times that examined how advances in medicine and the average lifespan have affected those who serve on the Supreme Court. The analysis found Supreme Court justices are living and serving longer than ever before. Judges confirmed to the bench before 1800 lived to be an average of 67 years old, but those confirmed between 1975 and 2000 have maintained an average life span of more than 82 years.

Dr. Baig also writes that mandatory exams may make little difference, as more justices are retiring earlier on their own accord. While more than 80 percent of justices confirmed during the early 1800s died while in office, during the second half of the 20th century, only 11 percent of justices have died while still in office, the analysis found.

Though the House Judiciary Committee and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have approved certain policies designed to measures judges' cognitive abilities and screen for potential health issues, Dr. Baig writes these solutions "are oversimplified at best." Prognosticating is difficult for physicians, he says, as no amount of disclosure can predict an individual's future health.

"Age affects every brain differently. Dementia is a diagnosis that cannot be made merely by observing a judge's behavior or by parsing his or her legal decisions," he writes.

To access the full report, click here.

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