In Brazil, a hard-won free health care system for all accommodates patients’ “right to beauty” with low-cost and government-subsidized plastic surgeries. With 1.2 million plastic surgeries a year, Brazil is the second largest consumer of plastic surgery. Many patients say they are “guinea pigs” for training the medical residents—risky procedures driven by the paramount importance of beauty in Brazil, writes medical anthropologist Alvaro Jarrin.
Jarrin questions the pervasive idea in Brazil that ugliness is a humanitarian issue solved by easy access to plastic surgery. Rather, patients become “experimental subjects in exchange for beauty,” he writes. “The consequences can be dire.”