Markets, Morals, and Limits in the Exchange of Human Eggs

18 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2016 Last revised: 27 Apr 2016

Date Written: September 1, 2015


Students of markets from all disciplines are increasingly turning their attention to the cultural and psychological factors that affect market structure. In traditionally taboo markets, of which reproduction surely is one, those factors include cultural understandings of the moral limits of markets and our collective level of comfort with fully commodifying and subjecting traditionally sacred items and activities to the marketplace.

While it is easy to dismiss these cultural understandings as romantic, silly, or delusional, this severely underestimates their importance, not just to society, but to the market itself. By reframing traditionally unacceptable behavior as a more palatable and familiar transaction, society is able to accept a market that is otherwise socially problematic or even repulsive. Market architects ignore these cultural understandings -- and, in particular, societal conceptions of the ethical limits of markets -- at their peril. In a world unwilling to embrace the sale of female reproductive capacity for merely a price, the "priceless gift" of egg donation allows a market to flourish that otherwise might stagnate under the weight of social disapproval.

Keywords: egg donation, markets, oocytes, taboo trade, contested commodity, commodification, morals, ethics

JEL Classification: K00, K21, K32, L11

Suggested Citation

Krawiec, Kimberly D., Markets, Morals, and Limits in the Exchange of Human Eggs (September 1, 2015). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 13, 2015; Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2016-24. Available at SSRN:

Kimberly D. Krawiec (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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