As economic collapse and austerity settle over Europe, criminal gangs have found a lucrative trade in brokering the sale of organs from the desperate poor to the dying rich. In his New York Times feature, Dan Bilefsky opens with the story of Pavle Mircov and his partner Daniella, Serbians who are trying to sell their kidneys so that they can feed and educate their teenage children. The sale of "kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas" is rampant in former Soviet states, but it's also booming in Spain, Italy and Greece -- countries where mandated austerity has stripped away the social safety net at the very moment in which the economy has collapsed and unemployment has spiked (in Spain, youth unemployment is over 50 percent).

I really came to understand this subject better through my reading of The Red Market, by Scott Carney, an excellent book on the sale of human tissues around the world. Though it seems like Mr Carney may have to write a new chapter for the econopocalypse.

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.”

Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe