When a genetic testing kit promising to predict a baby's gender with 99.9 percent accuracy five weeks after conception was launched last year, many pregnant women in the US were delighted.
About 4,500 bought the kit and began making plans for the new arrival. Names were chosen; nurseries painted; siblings coached to say brother, or sister; and then, several weeks later, about 100 discovered that the tests had got it wrong.
In a class action lawsuit filed in the US district court in Boston on behalf of 16 women the makers of the Baby Gender Mentor are accused of breaking their promise. Barry Gainey, the women's lawyer, said he knew of about 100 women whom the kit had failed.
The suit seeks to bar Acu-Gen Biolab from falsely marketing its test and to compel the firm to honor its money-back guarantee. The Baby Gender Mentor's Web site promises "unsurpassed accuracy" in predicting the sex of a fetus from three drops of a pregnant woman's blood, allowing parents to form a "natural nexus with your baby early on."
The test, which costs US$275, claims to detect fetal chromosomes in the maternal blood stream. Women do it at home and send it to Massachusetts for processing. They are promised double their money back on production of a birth certificate if the result is wrong.
But within weeks of taking the test dozens of pregnant women reported having ultrasound scans showing they were having babies of the opposite gender. When they complained to Acu-Gen they were told ultrasounds were unreliable predictors of gender. But after their babies were born the company proved just as reluctant to honor its promise. One of Gainey's clients was told that her child had gender irregularities.
"If he sold 4,000 tests he has got a right to have four women get it wrong, but he is way over that number," Gainey said.
The Acu-Gen president, CN Wang, has issued the following statement: "Dr Wang has decided to defer all his interviews regarding Baby Gender Mentor product and service for one more year, when the results of actual births ... should answer any concern of the accuracy of the test."