Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Connie Culp, 1st US partial face transplant recipient, dies

CcConnie Culp, the recipient of the first partial face transplant in the U.S., has died at 57, almost a dozen years after the groundbreaking operation. 

Her surgery was performed in 2008 by The Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic said Saturday that Culp died Wednesday at the Ohio clinic of complications from an infection unrelated to her transplant.

Dr. Frank Papay, who was part of Culp's surgical team, referred to Culp as "an incredibly brace, vibrant woman and an inspiration to many." Papay went on to say, "Her strength was evident in the fact that she had been the longer-living face transplant patient to date . . . She was a great pioneer and her decision to undergo a sometimes-daunting procedure is an enduring gift for all of humanity."

In 2004, Culp's husband shot her in the face in a failed murder-suicide attempt. The gunshot destroyed her nose, shattered her cheeks, and practically destroyed her vision. The Associated Press previously reported that her face was so mangled that children would run away from her and call her a monster. 

Culp went through 30 different operations to try to fix her face, all unsuccessful. In December 2008, Dr. Maria Siemionow led a team of doctors in a 22-hour operation to replace 80% of Culp's face with bone, muscle, nerves, skin and blood vessels from a donor, Anna Kasper. 

Following the operation, Culp went on to make television appearances and became an advocate for organ donation. 

Kasper's daughter said that she could see part of her mother in Culp, especially in the nose. She went on to say, "I know she's smiling down on this, that she's very happy."

See, Ron Todt, Connie Culp, 1st US partial face transplant recipient, dies, Associated Press, August 1, 2020. 


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