Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, failed to return to work as expected this week. Rehnquist released a statement saying his plan to return to the Supreme Court after a week in the hospital had been “too optimistic.” Thyroid cancer has a high survival rate, and the cure usually involves removal of the cancerous gland. But Rehnquist revealed that he was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, and experts said that might mean he has a rapidly progressive form of the cancer that is typically fatal. The news fueled already rampant speculation about whether the court’s balance could be shifted by one or more vacancies early in the next presidential term.
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