As debate continues to swirl around health care reform here in the U. S., way down south in Brazil, the concept of “health care” includes “plastic surgery.” Whereas not everyone here is a fan, in Brazil, there’s little to no stigma around the practice. As this Associated Press story reports, “Beauty is a right, and the poor deserve to be ravishing, too.” That follows, since with more than 11.5 million operations a year, Brazil is the second-biggest consumer of plastic surgery…after the United States.
I find this well-reported piece absolutely fascinating. I’ll recap a few key points for you verbatim.
- More than 220 clinics across Brazil treat poor or low-income people, including thousands of maids, receptionists and waitresses.
- The Brazilian Society of Aesthetic Medicine’s Rioclinic has performed free procedures on more than 14,000 patients since its founding in 1997.
- Now, at least two dozen mostly public hospitals in Rio alone offer discounted or sometimes free cosmetic surgeries to low-income people.
Why does this happen? Because plastic surgery is part of the Brazilian way of life. It’s also another example of the mind-body connection at work: When the body looks good, the mind feels good. Again, quoting from the story:
- Good looks, doctors argue, are more than skin deep, and by treating what patients view as physical flaws doctors are often also healing their psyches.
- But when we treat the wrinkle, that unimportant little thing, we’re actually treating something very important: The patient’s self esteem.
- The notion that beauty treatments can act in much the same way as psychoanalysis help[s] free patients from crippling neuroses.
Here in America, soap opera devotees make note when their favorite characters look a little “different,” and wax poetic about other characters who, thanks to plastic surgery, continue to look almost “the same.” (Of course she had a facelift! Or two!)
When they “need a lift”
In Brazil, hospitals designate several days annually for the low-income to queue up—in long lines—for free or discounted surgeries. And similar to the predicament of low-income, safety net patients in this country who need non-plastic, routine procedures, once they’re approved, they can wait months or years for the fix. Of course, the surgeries provide valuable clinical experience for plastic surgeons-in-training—not dissimilar to plastic surgery clinics at teaching hospitals here, except those surgeries aren’t free.
Next time you, as a baby boomer woman, contemplate a nip or tuck, why not think like your Brazilian counterparts? It’s your right. Right?