Woman left permanently disabled wants to prosecute 'faith healer' parents for refusing medical treatment

A 20-year-old woman has been left permanently disabled after her parents refused to allow her to seek medical advice for 18 years.

Mariah Walton speaking at a town hall meeting about her disability and her parents.Youtube

Mariah Walton believes her parents, members of the Idaho Followers of Christ sect who believe medical treatment intervene with God's will, deserve to be prosecuted.

Walton first received treatment when she was 18, after threatening her father to take her to the doctors after she collapsed.

She was diagnosed with pulminary hypertension – irreversible heart damage – caused by a small hole in her heart that, if treated sooner, could have been fixed.

"Yes, I would like to see my parents prosecuted. They deserve it – and it might stop others," she told the Guardian.

Mariah's parents had refused to take their daughter to doctors, believing that illnesses could be healed through faith and prayer.

When she first went to the hospital at 18, she said: "The doctor started asking me a lot of questions I didn't understand and used references – I didn't now what any of them meant.

"She told me I had this disease and I had no idea what it was. I was very scared going there," she told a town hall meeting.

"On the way back I had been crying... I was so scared about what my parents were going to say to me because my whole life they had threatened me [saying] if I were to go that something terrible would happen to me."

Walton, who now lives with her sister, did not have a birth certificate or social security number until two years ago.

Her pulminary hypertension requires a heart and lung transplant for any hope of recovery.

The Followers of Christ is a small sect based mainly in Idaho and Oregon and has 2,000 members.

The mortality rate in the sect is reportedly 10 times higher than the state's rate, and many of those who die are young children or newborn babies.

In Idaho, Walton's parents are immune to prosecution due to a clause in the law that protects faith healers, who believe prayer to the exclusion of medicine can cure illness.