“Almost Invisible Scars”: Medical Tourism to Brazil

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Along with a handful of other nations in the developing world, Brazil has emerged as a top destination for medical tourism. Drawing on the author’s ethnographic fieldwork in plastic surgery wards, this article examines diverse factors—some explicitly promoted in medical marketing and news sources, others less visible—contributing to Brazil’s international reputation for excellence in cosmetic plastic surgery. Brazil’s plastic surgery residency programs, some of which are housed within its public health system, attract overseas surgeons, provide ample opportunities for valuable training in cosmetic techniques, and create a clinical environment that favors experimentation with innovative techniques. Many graduates of these programs open private clinics that, in turn, attract overseas patients. High demand for Brazilian plastic surgery also reflects an expansive notion of female health that includes sexual realization, mental health, and cosmetic techniques that manage reproduction. Medical tourism is sometimes represented as being market‐driven: patients in wealthier nations travel to obtain quality services at lower prices. This article ends by reflecting on how more complex local and transnational dynamics also contribute to demand for elective medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-302
JournalSigns: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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