We at Via Meadia are always on the watch for tales of science fiction come true. Sometimes they’re cause for wonder and amazement—other times, they’re cause for alarm. A global black market for human body parts falls into the latter category.The NYT reports a story not for the faint of heart:
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.
Sci-fi author Larry Niven writes about the crime of “organlegging,” where people in the future will kill others in order to harvest their organs. We’re not quite there yet; so far the sellers are voluntary. But life is cheap in much of this world and organs are valuable. In Niven’s universe, what stopped organlegging was the development of alternative sources of supply: once human organs grown in labs from your own DNA were available, the illegal market collapsed.That’s likely what will happen in real time as well, but in the meantime, the state of Europe bears watching. What is happening to the poor in countries like Serbia and Moldova is truly unnerving. Poverty is driving the organ trade as well as Europe’s vibrant post Cold War industry of sex slavery.While much of Europe made the transition to reasonably prosperous market economies after the Cold War, some countries and some regions did not. With the EU almost entirely wrapped up in the euro crisis, with the US preoccupied by the more dramatic events in the Middle East and Africa, to say nothing of its increased focus on Asia, there is little interest around the world in helping those trapped in these failing states.