September 2005 - Posts
Do you [Acu-Gen] know that your test is accurate or don't you? (And by "know" I don't mean "know in your heart of hearts" so much as "know from the results of well-designed and well-conducted scientific studies with sufficiently large sample size that the results are reliable".) Pressed on whether tests of the accuracy had already been performed (as Bonelli claimed) or are currently being performed (as the Acu-Gen email to NPR suggested), the head of Acu-Gen, Chang Ming Wang, was evasive.
"Doctor Free-Ride, Ph.D."
In his interesting blog about "unexpected and unexplored connections", the Doc makes some excellent points about Acu-Gen's lack of credible supporting evidence for their claims.
Due to response to yesterday's story on NPR, reporter Nell Boyce is asking to hear from those who have had an experience with Acu-Gen or PregnancyStore.com. (Click the "Email Us Your Story" link on this page.)
The Boston Globe is also preparing an upcoming story on Baby Gender Mentor:
NPR's "Morning Edition" today features an extensive discussion about Baby Gender Mentor's accuracy claims. Two mothers who have posted here about their results are interviewed: Danielle, a mother who was told by Acu-Gen to expect her third boy but who has had numerous ultrasounds showing a girl; and Heather, whose Baby Gender Mentor result was boy/girl twins, but is expecting only one baby.
With Acu-Gen, the test's maker, offering little proof of its claims, anecdotal evidence of women with conflicting predictions worries Diana Bianchi. She's an expert on fetal DNA at Tufts University whose work is cited on Acu-Gen's Web site as proof that there's science behind the test.
You can hear the complete report on NPR's Web site (link below).
Women are increasingly seeking inappropriate IVF treatment because they do not have the time or inclination for a sex life and want to "diarise" their busy lives.
I don't know what they're smokin' over at the UK Telegraph, but somebody over there is totally clueless about what IVF means. Saying you're going to do IVF because you don't have time for sex is a little like saying you're going to grow and harvest all your own food because you don't have time to run to the corner grocery store. IVF is massively time-consuming and inconvenient; even if you don't particularly like doing the deed, you could probably have sex at least once just in the time it'd take to drive to the clinic for one IVF visit.
Concerns about the accuracy of Baby Gender Mentor, a test claiming to reveal an unborn baby's gender with virtually perfect accuracy just 5 weeks into pregnancy, are raised in this week's issue of Canada's Macleans weekly news magazine.
The test's accuracy has been called into question since NBC's popular morning show introduced it to millions. Acu-Gen says the success rate is based on more than 20,000 test cases, but so far the company has not substantiated its claims by publishing its result for peer review. And recently, pregnancy websites that host discussion forums have been filled with postings from angry and desperate moms-to-be who've received one result from Acu-Gen and an opposite result from their doctor.
Danielle, who is expecting her third child in December and has chronicled her experience with Baby Gender Mentor here on In-Gender.com, says, "I just wish I had never heard of the test."
Just what ARE the conditions to the 200% money back guarantee promised by Baby Gender Mentor if your test does in fact turn out to be inaccurate? That's the question on several pregnancy boards this week, as more women report having repeated ultrasounds that show their baby's gender does not match the Baby Gender Mentor result.
The Baby Gender Mentor Web site makes this promise about their 200% guarantee.
We guarantee that all test results will be 99.9% accurate. If your test results are legitimately incorrect, Baby Gender Mentor warranties a 200% refund of both the laboratory and purchasing expenses. A valid registration number and an original birth certificate are required for the refund.
Baby Gender Mentor Web site
I think most women expect that, if the gender of the baby they give birth to doesn't match the Baby Gender Mentor result, they're entitled to that 200% refund. That's the information Baby Gender Mentor is supposed to provide -- what color to paint the nursery, and what gender to expect to pop out of the birth canal.
But what about this condition?
...in the advent of a miscarriage or reabsorption of the one of the twins, no refunds will be granted
Baby Gender Mentor Web site
Miscarriage. Given how early in pregnancy Baby Gender Mentor may be used, it is a sad inevitability that some of these pregnancies will end in miscarriage. If the baby's gender cannot be determined, I do not see any reason why Acu-Gen should be expected to refund the fee, since the service was performed. However, one woman has reported that, after her early miscarriage, Acu-Gen did kindly refund her lab fee.
Vanishing Twins. It's the vague "readsorption of a twin" clause in that statement that has many women questioning the validity of the guarantee.
Who decides whether a vanishing twin ever existed? If there is no evidence -- except for the Baby Gender Mentor test -- that a twin ever existed, is this this just a loophole to explain away every incorrect result?
In fact, the vanishing twin theory can only account for an incorrect BOY result. In this case, it could be possible that the mother was carrying boy/girl twins at the time she took the Baby Gender Mentor test. The male DNA was detected, causing a boy result. However, the boy baby then perished, while the girl survived. (A vanishing twin cannot account for an incorrect GIRL result.)
The president of the company selling Baby Gender Mentor has assured us, though, that the 200% guarantee will be honored for an incorrect result, regardless of any theory about a vanishing twin.
All vanishing twin cases will still be covered under our 200% guarantee as usual.
Sherry Bonelli, President of PregnancyStore, on In-Gender.com
It sounds to me like Sherry is saying PregnancyStore is going to do the right thing, and honor their 200% guarantee without resorting to the vanishing twin loophole. If you give birth to a baby and the gender does not match your Baby Gender Mentor result, you should expect to receive double your money back, period.
Since Acu-Gen has confirmed that this test is 99.9% accurate, that 1 in 1,000 that is not should be refunded without any quibble.
By the way: If you do request a refund, some parents have warned against sending a baby's birth certificate (as proof of gender) because of concerns about privacy or identity theft. Before you send a copy of a birth certificate, black out any information which is not necessary, which should only be last name, gender, and date of birth.
I didn't see this one coming. To dodge the restrictive fertility regulations in Britian, a plan for a providing fertility treatments on a ship in international waters is underway. Services could include sex selection, and use of donor sperm and eggs. Because of changes in UK regulations, donor eggs and sperm are now in short supply, and couples needing them are driven to seek treatment in other countries, or resort to a "grey market" where the quality of eggs or sperm may be questionable.
Behind the plan for a floating fertility clinic is Ole Schou, director of the sperm bank Cryos in Denmark. Although it may sound like a nemesis of James Bond, Cryos is actually a well-known and reputable international sperm bank, boasting 10,000 births in 40 countries from their donated sperm.
The idea is to have ships staffed with professional people from the local country. UK doctors would be employed and take care of UK patients. There is a market for hundreds of ships in Europe and the most obvious markets will be around the UK and Italy.
I think it is totally wrong what they are doing in the UK and Italy. If they make it so strict without realising what is happening, it is not very clever. They just push people abroad or out in the grey market in order to have a nice ethical position.
-- Ole Schou
Currently, the legislation in many countries forces couples hoping to choose their baby's gender into one of two choices: to travel abroad, which is beyond the financial means of most, or to use the "keep trying" method, which is rather expensive as well. If the quality of medical treatment offered on the "fertility ships" is high, then this could be the answer that some couples have been hoping for.
Residents of Vancouver and Toronto can attend a play about the ethical questions raised by PGD: "What is normal? Who should decide?"
Dr. Jeff Nisker [is] a Canadian PGD researcher turned playwright whose exploration of the moral minefields surrounding PGD and genetic testing can be seen in his play, Orchids, on this coming week.
A new mother and registered sonographer with the username Turtle75 generously shares her advice with expectant moms on BabyCenter's Ultrasound forum. She generally responds first to questions and concerns about potential problems, but she also reviews the all-important "potty shots" to help determine baby's gender.
This is the image I was seeing during my ultrasound when she dropped the bomb on me: "IT'S TWINS!"
"No, it can't be," I said. "That's two heads," she explained. "No," I insisted, "it's the baby's two feet. Shoulders? Buttocks? Something a baby has two of?" A few minutes later I'd be looking at 8 arms and legs.
Four ultrasounds say girl, but two Baby Gender Mentor tests say boy. Will Danielle be bringing home a Christmas baby in pink or blue?
See Danielle's blog for her latest update and ultrasound pictures.
Susan Anne Catherine Torres, whose brain-dead mother was kept on life support for three months so her baby could be born, died early yesterday. She was 5 weeks and 5 days old.
It had seemed such a miracle that Jason Torres, after losing his wife, would have a daughter to carry her name. It was not to be.
Genetic Experiment 626
Recently I made fun of a prominent Welsh medical authority who claimed that Britian is a "hop, skip, and a jump" from creating designer babies.
"You decide that you want a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who is bright and good at tennis. ...We are now a hop, skip and a jump away from it and that makes me very uncomfortable," said Dr. Tony Calland, British Medical Association Welsh Council
The folks at the "Understanding Genetics" Web site have a really nice feature called "Ask a Geneticist", providing expert answers to questions posed by the public. Here's this week's question:
Is it possible to use genetic engineering to create a "designer baby"? I've seen news articles with phrases like, "soon, parents could order up a blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl who's good at tennis". Is it technically possible to alter a human embryo to produce a desired trait, such as blue eyes, if neither parent carries genes for blue eyes? Or, for example, if both parents are carriers of cystic fibrosis, and all of their embryos were found to have or carry CF, could the CF gene be fixed in the embryo?
The short answer:
No, none of this is possible right now. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon either.
Visit their Web site to see the complete and very interesting response (link below).
Dr. Calland, it looks to me, is simply using his respected position to raise false alarmist claims in order to sway people to his way of thinking, during a time when gender selection is under public review in the UK. This is a person on the *Ethics* committee.
Sherry Bonelli of PregnancyStore.com, retailer of Acu-Gen's Baby Gender Mentor, has posted a comment to my article comparing Baby Gender Mentor with ultrasound results, and raised some questions I'd like to address.
What are Maureen's "hidden agenda" and "ulterior motives"?
My "agenda" is on the top of every page of this Web site: that bit about the "straight truth". You'll see it in bold print on my home page:
I'll tell you the straight truth... because I'm not trying to sell you anything.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I'll say that it's more than my "motive", it's my mission to be an impartial source of information on a topic where there's precious little objectivity to be found, mostly because everybody else IS trying to sell something.
But even if you don't believe any of that, from a practical standpoint, where is there any profit in it for me, either way? Let's look at two possible outcomes when the "truth will out" and the babies in question are born:
- Baby Gender Mentor turns out to be right in every case. The result? Maureen looks foolish for ever questioning this "foolproof" test.
- Baby Gender Mentor turns out to be wrong in some of these cases. The result? Fame and fortune for Maureen! No, not really. I don't have any competing product to sell. I will simply have the unfortunate task of writing, Sorry, this is yet another case of, Don't drink the Kool-Aid.
And if it turns out to be the second case, I will be very sad and disappointed. I would much rather report that this product is the real deal. Sherry Bonelli has been widely quoted as saying, "more than half of expectant parents want to know the baby's sex in advance". Well, among my compatriots who visit this Web site, that ratio is a lot higher. For those who have endured 6 months on the "girl diet", or spent $20,000 to get pregnant using MicroSort, "want to know" is a gigantic understatement. "Dying to know" or "obsessing night and day" might be closer to the truth. And I'm one of this group, I'll frankly admit; I was dying to know my baby's gender before the second line on the pregnancy test barely had a chance to show up.
I would love to be able to tell my readers, "Now YOU can choose the time to learn your baby's gender, and with absolute certainty! No more second-guessing the ultrasound, no more silly Draino test or Chinese calendar nonsense, it's the END of the 20-WEEK-WAIT!"
If it turns out that Baby Gender Mentor can make good on its promise, that 99.9% of these babies pop out of the birth canal with gender matching the Baby Gender Mentor result, then I will strongly recommend this service on this Web site, because my readers will want to know about it.
The science behind Baby Gender Mentor
The science, technology and fundamental principle behind the Baby Gender Mentor are totally new and novel -- unlike anything else that's out there or published to date.
("New and novel" but proven in a 14 year trial?)
I don't think any rational person would expect a science that is new, novel, and unpublished to be blindly accepted without question. A product that is launched to the public without first passing muster in the scientific community is certainly open to skepticism. How can any consumer afford not to be wary of fantastic claims? If I believed every claim a company printed on their box, I'd be sitting here waiting for my Ab-Energizer to effortlessly melt away my unwanted pounds, while a magic "better than Botox" cream erased all my wrinkles.
Yet any question about Baby Gender Mentor is regarded as some kind of fraud or "conspiracy", rather than an honest effort to evaluate a new product. Valid and reasonable inquiries are met with vagueness and outright paranoia, and even name-calling.
Any medical person or scientist who claims to know how the test is done is not true and undoubtedly wrong.
Well, I'm neither, but I can read the studies listed on the PregnancyStore Web site, and draw the conclusion that Acu-Gen is detecting cell-free fetal DNA in maternal blood.
I have also noticed that the description of this test has been completely changed.
Originally, the test claimed only to detect Y-chromosome-specific DNA; Y-DNA indicates a male pregnancy, and in its absence, a female pregnancy is assumed. Of course I am not privy to Acu-Gen's secrets, but it is fairly obvious to infer that this test could be done using PCR to amplify a Y-specific sequence, such as SRY or DYS1 or other genes. This isn't a breakthrough; rather, it's a well-documented procedure using standard equipment. (The idea of providing this service in an at-home kit, however, is novel.) At that time I concluded, and posted on this Web site, that the science definitely looked valid, although I had reservations about detecting fetal DNA in the mother's blood so early in pregnancy that the placenta had not even developed yet.
The new claim, however, goes far beyond this, stating that both "fetus-originated" X and Y chromosome sequences can be detected. This is something completely different. I can speculate on a couple of ways to do this -- by identifying DNA through epigenetic markers; or looking for X-sequences that don't match either of the mother's two X chromosomes. Such techniques would have great potential for prenatal diagnosis, and so I hope this is true.
...none of the statistics and legality of the allegations can either be substantiated or stand the trial of time...
There are no "allegations" in my article. There is simply a comparison of results and a question:
What do you think is going on here? Is the ultrasound wrong, or Baby Gender Mentor? Only time -- and birth -- will tell.
If there is no doubt that Baby Gender Mentor will be completely vindicated by "the trial of time", why is this question so threatening? I would think any retailer, who has enjoyed such a bonanza of free publicity as this product has received, would be laughing all the way to the bank, thinking of the day soon when all doubts will be resolved and Baby Gender Mentor will be proven correct in every single case, and all of the naysayers will look like crackpots who probably think the Moon landing is a hoax, too. And how Maureen will have nothing but a nice illustration of how inaccurate ultrasounds really are at predicting a baby's gender.
Our clients... have the right to contact Acu-Gen directly to resolve the confusion instead of being part of the unsubstantiated statistics at this website.
It is correct that the pregnancies I have listed are "unsubstantiated" and anecdotal. I do not claim to be running a clinical trial.
But here is another unsubstantiated statistic: Acu-Gen's 14-year trial testing 20,000 women with 99.9% accuracy.
A documented medical trial would provide information like this: "We tested (number) of women between the __th and __th week of pregnancy. The women were __ years old and this was their __th pregnancy. We conducted this research in (city) and we recruited women (how). We confirmed our results (how). Pregnancies resulted in (boys, girls, multiples, miscarriages)."
I repeatedly questioned Acu-Gen for ANY details about this astonishingly successful trial, and got only: "this service has been running in Asia for 14 years". (Raising a whole new set of questions I won't delve into here.)
As much as Acu-Gen is convinced that their own tests are valid and substantiated, I am convinced that the pregnancies I have listed here are real and substantiated and a realistic test group. Only a few of these women even know that I have taken note of their Baby Gender Mentor and ultrasound results, which they have posted publicly just as pregnant women everywhere discuss the outcome of every possible gender prediction from ultrasound to old wives' tales.
On the other hand, women who have sought out this Web site specifically because of their conflicting ultrasound and Baby Gender Mentor results, are excluded from these totals. The statistics do NOT include Danielle, Mandy, and others, simply because I didn't know about their pregnancy before they got conflicting results. The only women I have included in these totals are women who have previously posted or blogged about their pregnancy, sharing everything from morning sickness to extra bathroom trips in the middle the night. They may not be a statistically perfect universe, but they seem undoubtedly to be real pregnant women who have absolutely no motive beyond just wanting to know their unborn baby's gender -- exactly what Baby Gender Mentor is promising.
Danielle is a mother of two boys, and is expecting her third child
in December. After seeing the Baby Gender Mentor on the Today
Show, Danielle was excited to learn she could find out her baby's
gender right away, without having to wait another 10 weeks to satisfy
her curiosity by ultrasound. You can read about her
experience with the Acu-Gen test, and take a look at her ultrasound
photos, on her blog.
I hope there will be no confusion
on this point, but since this Web site is about gender selection,
please let me make this very clear: Danielle only wanted to use Baby
Gender Mentor to find out her baby's gender. She had absolutely no
intention of using this test for sex selection.