21.02.2024

Robert Paulson, Long-Term A.L.S. Survivor, Is Dead at 86

With his background in science, he specialized in patent law. “My life as an attorney, before A.LS., entailed standing up and speaking in federal court,” he told Bridging Voice. “I used my voice in every part of the law.” He also sang in opera workshops, glee clubs and church choirs.

But his ability to stand, speak and sing began to erode in the 1990s, as his fingers, arms, legs and stomach muscles weakened. He went from using a cane to a walker and, in 1998, to a wheelchair. But he continued to work as a partner at Morgan & Finnegan, an intellectual property law firm in Manhattan, for five more years. He stopped when he could no longer use his limbs and keep up with the billing.

In late 2003, when pneumonia led to the failure of his lungs, he required a tracheotomy and breathing and feeding tubes. “I can do this, I’m already in a wheelchair,” he recalled of his reaction to the latest change in the state of his health when he was interviewed a few years later by the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s A.L.S. division.

He adjusted over the next 20 years, with help from his wife; his sons, Joshua, Luke and James; and others. He started his own patent law firm, with a client list that included the United States Chamber of Commerce; wrote his autobiography; and compiled a synopsis of more than 200 decisions in trademark and copyright law from 2013 to 2020.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Paulson is survived by his sons, four grandchildren and his brother Arnold.

Mrs. Paulson said that despite his condition, her husband retained a largely positive disposition.

“He was willing to face the day,” she said. “He’d wake up, maybe you’d see a few tears in his eyes, but he’d charge ahead. I’d get him in the wheelchair, and off we’d go.”

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