A woman whose parents belong to a religious sect has been left permanently disabled after her heart condition was left untreated for 18 years due to their beliefs.
Mariah Walton had to threaten her father, a member of the Followers of Christ sect who believes medical treatment intervenes with God’s will, to get him to take her to the doctors after she collapsed two years ago.
At the appointment, the 20-year-old was told she was suffering from pulmonary hypertension – irreversible heart damage, which was caused by a small hole in the organ being left untreated. She has now revealed to the Guardian that she believes her parents should be prosecuted over what has happened.
Mariah Walton (right), whose parents belong to a secretive religious sect, has been left permanently disabled after her heart condition was left untreated for 18 years due to their beliefs. She is pictured speaking about her experiences at a town hall meeting
She said: ‘Yes, I would like to see my parents prosecuted. They deserve it – and it might stop others.’ Her comments come after she gave a separate tearful interview in which she spoke about the moment she discovered she had the disease.
Miss Walton told a town hall meeting, in which spoke about her experience earlier this year, that she made her father take her to the doctors while her mother was at work one day.
She said: ‘The doctor started asking me a lot of questions I didn’t understand and used references – I didn’t know 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.
Photo: Jason Wilson /Guardian
Brian Hoyt at home in Boise.
The 20-year-old had to threaten her father, a member of the Followers of Christ sect who believes medical treatment intervenes with God’s will, to get him to take her to the doctors after she collapsed two years ago. Above, a Followers of Christ church, which is not the one the family attended
‘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.’
Miss Walton, who has moved in with her sister, now has to carry an oxygen tank around with her and must have heart and lung transplant surgery if she wants any chance of recovering.
The Followers of Christ is a small Christian sect, based predominantly in Idaho and Oregon. It has less than 2,000 members.
The mortality rate for families in the sect is believed to be around 10 times higher than the state’s rate. Many of those who die are young children or newborn babies following complications at birth.
Under current laws, Miss Walton’s parents cannot be prosecuted as faith healers, who believe prayers can cure illness, are protected.
She is now campaigning for a change alongside others affected including Brian Hoyt, who broke his ankle when he was 12 and had it treated with olive oil. Mr Hoyt, speaking during the same meeting, also revealed he was beaten by family members after he collapsed from pain one day because they believed he ‘didn’t have enough faith’.