RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Dr. Ivo Pitanguy, one of the world’s top plastic surgeons who helped make Brazil a popular destination for the rich and famous to get work done, died on Saturday. He was 90.
Pitanguy’s death came one day after he carried the Olympic flame that later lit the cauldron at the Games’ opening ceremony in Rio’s Maracana Stadium. Suffering various health problems, he carried the flame while sitting in a wheelchair.
Pitanguy had a heart attack at his home in Rio de Janeiro, spokeswoman Patricia Sallum told The Associated Press.
One of his signature surgeries earned the nickname the “Brazilian butt-lift.” His skills with the scalpel helped make beauty-obsessed Brazil a leading international destination for plastic surgery tourism and one of the countries where the most operations are performed.
Pitanguy was said to have a long list of international jet-set types who he operated on, though he was also careful not to release names. He became so successful that he commuted to work in a helicopter from a private island.
Despite his fame and wealth, he also liked to help poor accident victims for free. Early in his career, he created a surgical wing of a hospital to treat those with few resources. Other hospitals followed suit, leading to several that offer discounted or even free plastic surgeries to the poor.
Called the “philosopher of plastic surgery,” Pitanguy argued that beauty treatments can help people in the same way that psychoanalysis does because it helps break down internal barriers. In other words, changes made on the outside of the body can boost self-esteem.
His body will be cremated on Sunday.