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Trans woman dies after being abandoned on operating table as fire engulfs surgery clinic. Her name was Lorena Muniz

Josh Milton February 24, 2021
Lorena Muniz poses in a denim jacket

Lorena Muniz. (Instagram)

Lorena Muniz, a 25-year-old trans woman from Brazil described by loved ones as “full of life”, was left to die by medics after a fire engulfed a clinic.

Sedated, Muniz was awaiting a scheduled breast augmentation at Saúde Aqui, in the Liberdade district of São Paulo, when the air conditioning system short-circuited and caused a fire, witnesses said.

Surgeons abandoned Muniz as flames ripped through the building on 17 February, leaving her to die, according to local media.

“My daughter was treated like a piece of meat on the operating table,” Muniz’s mother, Elisângela, said, according to UOL Universa.

Speaking to local councillor Erika Hilton and state representative Erica Malunguinho, both trans women, Elisângela described her daughter as “very beautiful, hardworking, full of life ahead”.

“He [the doctor] could have pulled the stretcher with him, carried my daughter on his shoulder, whatever, but he couldn’t have left her there,” she said.

Muniz’s husband of six years, Washington Barbosa, said that the surgery was one of her greatest “dreams”. She had travelled to the city from Recife, Pernambuco, for the long-awaited appointment.

Mobile phone footage of the fire shuddered on social media, showing panicked healthcare providers and patients spilling onto the pavement. But Muniz was nowhere to be seen.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Erica Malunguinho (@ericamalunguinho)

It was only after firefighters broke into the charred building and found Muniz unconscious that she was finally pulled out.

“She was unconscious for seven minutes,” Barbosa explained in an emotional Instagram video, “and this caused damage to the circulation of oxygen in her brain, and now she is not reacting.”

Muniz was sped to the emergency room of Hospital das Clínicas, with medical records saying she was suffering from burns and the effects of prolonged smoke inhalation. She passed away Sunday (21 February).

“Lorena’s life was worth 4,000 reais, folks,” Barbosa said, referring to the cost of the procedure.

Lorena Muniz ‘could not go out on the street’ without being attacked, says husband 

Officials and public defenders have responded to the incident with fury and despair. In a country seemingly accustomed to relentless transphobic violence, such horror is all too common.

Under president Jair Bolsonaro’s leadership, Brazil last year saw at least 175 trans and gender non-conforming violently killed.

This spectre of transphobic violence haunted Muniz, Barbosa said.

“One thing that bothered her was that she went out on the street and listened to pejorative things, it hurt her a lot,” he recalled.

“She could not go out on the street, she was subject to scary attacks.”

Public defender Isadora Brandão has vowed to seek justice for Muniz, reporting the incident to First Police District. Muniz’s family and witnesses of the fire are expected to testify in the coming days, Brandão said, according to UOL Universa.

Hilton pledged to “fight so that no life is lost in this way anymore”.

Malunguinho, meanwhile, took aim at the perlious state of trans healthcare in the country, where “surgical procedures that do not guarantee safety and quality” are the “reality in Brazil”.

But as loved ones wrestle with the death of Muniz, her mother stressed that her daughter is more than a headline or a statistic.

“She has a family, she has a name,” Elisângela said. “Lorena Batista Muniz.”

More: Brazil, Trans

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