The Dark Side of that Free Brazilian Boob Job

In Brazil, not only is universal healthcare a right – so is beauty.

In the public hospitals of Brazil plastic surgeries are subsidized by the government. As one of the largest consumers of plastic surgery in the world, Brazil has nearly half a million of these free or low-cost surgeries a year. What could go wrong with free boob jobs, right?

In Brazilian culture, beauty is a means of social mobility. Being perceived as beautiful or aesthetically pleasing allows people (particularly Brazilian women) to find a husband, get better jobs, and climb the social ladder. So, in theory, providing minimal cost plastic surgeries to the lower class encourages social (and possibly economic) equality right? According to many of the recipients of these subsidized operations, the answer is no.

These low cost plastic surgeries are very dangerous, with patients referring to themselves as “cobaias” or guinea pigs. This is because most of Brazil’s surgical “innovations” are tested in public hospitals before being introduced to the upper class. The public hospital medical residents (who are often times honing their craft to later work in a much more lucrative privately-funded clinic) are cavalier with these experimental plastic surgery techniques. One new controversial procedure called bioplastia involves the injection of a substance similar to acrylic glass to reshape the body. While this operation can be effective, it has left countless others with painful and permanent medical conditions.

Because lower class citizens often do not have the financial means to sue the doctors that harm them, these incidents go without punishment. In fact, one woman (interviewed by revealed that she was offered another free surgery after her first breast augmentation left her with an infection that took months to heal (with undesired results). Interestingly, she accepted the offer hoping the next surgery would rectify the mistakes of the first.

It seems that Brazil’s obsession with outward “beauty” has caused its people – even the ones being harmed – to turn a blind eye to the dark side of the plastic surgery industry. Brazil’s struggle with self-acceptance started in the 1920’s, when eugenic researchers linked beauty with race. Due to Brazil’s high rate of racial mixing, especially in the lower classes, obtaining what society deemed “beautiful” seemed only possible through medical means. Many of the pioneers of plastic surgery have come from Brazil, but at what cost to the lower class population that rely on these surgeries to fit the mold of Brazilian society? If Brazil continues consuming these surgeries at its current rate (with new “innovations” continually being tested), there is no saying what damage will ensue.

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Athena Malcolm

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