Measles outbreaks around the world and increasing debates over religious exemptions to preventative vaccines are causing some people to ask if kids who grew up unvaccinated – and later contract some harmful disease – should be able to sue their parents.
The poster-child for this idea is Mariah Walton, a woman who was the victim of faith healing and ended up with a fatal lung condition as a result. She said she wanted her parents, and other anti-vaxxers, to face criminal charges for not treating children with real medicine.
In 2016, she gave an interview in which she condemned lawmakers who refuse to fix legal loopholes that lead to unprosecuted deaths caused by faith healing parents.
Right now, Idaho – where Walton is from – still has a faith healing exemption that prevents most parents from being charged in connection with their children’s illnesses or death. About 183 kids have died in the state due to the refusal of parents to provide appropriate medical care, according to activists.
“Freedom of religion doesn’t say that children should die. It doesn’t say it in the Constitution, the Bible or the Book of Mormon,” she said to Boise Weekly. “We keep telling legislators that we need help, but someone at the Legislature needs to step up. This is real life and death. A lot of people may say, ‘Oh, any parent ought to be responsible for taking care of this, not the government.‘ But if a parent hasn’t taken that responsibility, somebody needs to step in.”
“We assume that a lot of deaths can be prevented,” said Bruce Wingate, founder of Protect Idaho Kids Foundation.
Wingate estimates that three to four children will die this year in Idaho alone if lawmakers fail to lift the state’s faith-healing exemptions.
“Because this happens over time, people don’t get shocked. But 183 kids is outrageous,” Wingate said.
Although activists say 183 kids have died, there is no number to how many kids have been seriously or permanently injured as a result of lack of vaccines or negligent medical care. And it’s worth noting that Idaho isn’t the only state with laws in place that protect the parents in situations like this.
So, what do you think? Should people who grew up without access to proper medical care be able to pursue charges against their parents when something goes wrong?