Ecuadoran beauty queen dies following liposuction

QUITO (AFP) - A young beauty queen has died in Ecuador after undergoing liposuction surgery that she had received as a prize, her family said, calling the operation a case of medical malpractice.

Mr Catherine Cando Cornejo, a 19-year-old student who in October was named "Queen of Duran," a town near the port city of Guayaquil, died Saturday during abdominal liposuction.

Members of her family said that she was admitted to surgery at a Guayaquil clinic at 8.23am for waist reduction that was meant to take off 3cm.

Around 6pm, nearly 10 hours later, her family was notified she had died.

"My sister did not want the operation because she was afraid, but the doctor insisted on several occasions... and convinced her to undergo surgery," Mr Daniel Zavala Cornejo told reporters.

Family lawyer Carlos Reyes said the young beauty queen died of cerebral oedema or swelling of the brain.

"The clinic lawyer said the death was due to cardiac arrest, but we have a copy of the autopsy and it turns out the cause was stated as cerebral edema; this is presumably due to problems with anaesthesia," Mr Reyes told the press.

According to a complaint filed by the family, the surgery was awarded for winning the pageant.

But a spokesman for the mayor said the doctor who performed the operation was on the jury and had given the young winner a US$1,000 (S$1,300) coupon for surgery.

"We made it clear that the prizes we hand out, our prizes, were a car and tablet," he told AFP.

Authorities are investigating the case and have not made any arrests.

Under Ecuador law, professional malpractice, including medical malpractice, is punishable with one to three years in prison.

President Rafael Correa has previously criticised beauty pageants, ordering the education ministry in 2010 to ban the events in public schools on grounds that they had no educational value and were sexist.