[Marxism] A booming new business in Europe

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jun 29 11:05:49 MDT 2012

NY Times June 28, 2012
Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe

BELGRADE, Serbia — Pavle Mircov and his partner, Daniella, 
nervously scan their e-mail in-box every 15 minutes, desperate for 
economic salvation: a buyer willing to pay nearly $40,000 for one 
of their kidneys.

The couple, the parents of two teenagers, put their organs up for 
sale on a local online classified site six months ago after Mr. 
Mircov, 50, lost his job at a meat factory here. He has not been 
able to find any work, he said, so he has grown desperate. When 
his father recently died, Mr. Mircov could not afford a tombstone. 
The telephone service has been cut off. One meal a day of bread 
and salami is the family’s only extravagance.

“When you need to put food on the table, selling a kidney doesn’t 
seem like much of a sacrifice,” Mr. Mircov said.

Facing grinding poverty, some Europeans are seeking to sell their 
kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas, experts say. This 
phenomenon is relatively new in Serbia, a nation that has been 
battered by war and is grappling with the financial crisis that 
has swept the Continent. The spread of illegal organ sales into 
Europe, where they are gaining momentum, has been abetted by the 
Internet, a global shortage of organs for transplants and, in some 
cases, unscrupulous traffickers ready to exploit the economic misery.

In Spain, Italy, Greece and Russia, advertisements by people 
peddling organs — as well as hair, sperm and breast milk — have 
turned up on the Internet, with asking prices for lungs as high as 
$250,000. In late May, the Israeli police detained 10 members of 
an international crime ring suspected of organ trafficking in 
Europe, European Union law enforcement officials said. The 
officials said the suspects had targeted impoverished people in 
Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

“Organ trafficking is a growth industry,” said Jonathan Ratel, a 
European Union special prosecutor who is leading a case against 
seven people accused of luring poor victims from Turkey and former 
communist countries to Kosovo to sell their kidneys with false 
promises of payments of up to $20,000. “Organized criminal groups 
are preying upon the vulnerable on both sides of the supply chain: 
people suffering from chronic poverty, and desperate and wealthy 
patients who will do anything to survive.”

The main supply countries have traditionally been China, India, 
Brazil and the Philippines. But experts say Europeans are 
increasingly vulnerable.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 kidneys are illegally sold globally 
each year, according to Organs Watch, a human rights group in 
Berkeley, Calif., that tracks the illegal organ trade. The World 
Health Organization estimates that only 10 percent of global needs 
for organ transplantation are being met.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, the director of Organs Watch and a professor 
of medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, 
said the attempt by poor Europeans to sell their organs was 
reminiscent of the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, 
when chronic joblessness created a new breed of willing sellers.

Trade in organs in Serbia is illegal and punishable by up to 10 
years in prison. But that is not deterring the people of Doljevac, 
a poor municipality of 19,000 people in southern Serbia, where the 
government refused an attempt by residents to register a local 
agency to sell their organs and blood abroad for profit.

Violeta Cavac, a homemaker advocating for the network, said that 
the unemployment rate in Doljevac was 50 percent and that more 
than 3,000 people had wanted to participate. Deprived of a legal 
channel to sell their organs, she said, residents are now trying 
to sell body parts in neighboring Bulgaria or in Kosovo.

“I will sell my kidney, my liver, or do anything necessary to 
survive,” she said.

Hunched over his computer in Kovin, about 25 miles from Belgrade, 
Mr. Mircov showed a reporter his kidney-for-sale advertisement, 
which included his blood type and phone number.

“Must sell kidney. Blood group A,” the ad said. “My financial 
situation is very difficult. I lost my job, and I need money for 
school for my two children.”

After six months of advertising, Mr. Mircov said, his days are 
punctuated by hope and disappointment. He said a man from 
Mannheim, Germany, had offered to fly him to Germany and cover the 
transplant costs. But when Mr. Mircov tried to follow up, he said, 
the man disappeared.

A woman from Macedonia offered $24,000 for a kidney from his 
partner, Daniella, but that was $12,000 below her asking price. 
She noted that she has blood type O, which can bring a $12,000 
premium on the organ market because the blood is safe for most 

Mr. Mircov said he had no fear about an eventual operation or 
legal strictures forbidding organ sales. “It’s my body, and I 
should be able to do what I want with it,” he said.

Government officials insisted that Serbia was not so poor as to 
reduce people to selling their body parts, while police officials 
said not a single case of organ trafficking in Serbia had been 
prosecuted in the past 10 years. Experts who study illegal organ 
sales said prosecutions were rare because transplants usually took 
place in third countries, making them difficult to track.

Dr. Djoko Maksic, a leading nephrologist who runs the transplant 
program at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade, expressed 
disbelief that illegal organ selling was taking place in Serbia, 
saying every potential donor was scrutinized and vetted by a 
hospital committee consisting of doctors, ethicists and lawyers.

But Milovan, 52, a former factory worker from a rural village in 
southern Serbia, said he “gave” his kidney to a wealthy local 
politician who, in return, put him on his company payroll and 
offered to buy him medication. The kidney was extracted at a 
public hospital in Belgrade, he said, with both men using forged 
donor cards indicating they were brothers.

Debt-ridden, Milovan, who declined to give his last name for fear 
of being ostracized by his neighbors, lamented that the recipient 
had recently cut him off, and his family said he had spent his 
money so quickly that he was reduced to selling eggs at a local 

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