For over 21 years, oocyte and embryo donation have been used to treat infertility caused by a variety of conditions affecting the ovary. Many disorders, including premature ovarian failure, advanced reproductive age, unexplained recurrent implantation failure and inherited conditions, are amenable to gamete donation, with high pregnancy rates and good obstetrical outcomes observed in recipients. Protocols for the medical screening of recipients and donors, as well as infectious disease and genetic testing, have become relatively uniform and well accepted. Established guidelines allow synchronization of the menstrual cycles of both women to ensure that embryos are transferred to a receptive endometrium. The high demand for donor services has led to escalating costs and long waiting lists. American programmes bid against each other to secure the participation of young women often motivated as much by financial reward as altruism. In the United States, where the majority of oocyte donation is practised, more than 100,000 treatment cycles have occurred. However, to date no meaningful longitudinal studies detailing the long term effects of treatment on donors, recipients, children born, or families created have been published. Throughout its history, oocyte and embryo donation has proven to be both efficacious and clinically innovative, yet remains highly controversial.