The italicized sentence under the title of this New Yorker essay summarizes it well: "Wanted: Highly accomplished young women willing to undergo risky, painful medical procedure for very large sums." Mead traces the phenomenon of women selling their eggs through the experience of Cindy Schiller, a 26-year-old law student who was "donating" her eggs for the third time.

In addition to Schiller's observations, the article is full of information about the clinical dimensions of egg donation--the donor shuts down her ovaries so that none of her eggs ripen and none of her follicles develop, followed by injections of follicle-stimulating hormones, followed by eggs that are "sucked out, one by one," and whisked away to be fertilized in a petri dish. Most of the article addresses the legal and ethical dimensions of egg donation, the hopes and expectations of those seeking donors, and the new-found marketing strategies of the American fertility industry.


In this extraordinary essay, Mead manages to pull together the motivation for egg donation from both the donor's and recipients' perspectives ("Schiller donates her eggs because she thinks that it's a worthy thing to do, and because it's a worthy thing to do . . . for which she can be paid in sums that seem handsome"), to its legal/political implications ("America is the only country with a market in eggs"), to its complex ethical dimensions for donors (long-term effects unknown), recipients (shopping for genes), and the larger culture (a marketplace mentality for gametes and genes, accessible primarily to a privileged class). The essay is wonderfully written and provides case after case of the complexities of egg donation, making it a first-rate reading for coursework in women's health, bioethics, cultural studies, or family studies.

Primary Source

The New Yorker


Condé Nast

Place Published

New York


August 9,1999, pp. 56-65

Page Count