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Letter To The Editor: In Response To “Silent Betrayal”

Dear Editor,

The thoughtful and well-spoken middle and high school students who wrote, “Silent Betrayal: The NY Assembly’s Failure to Act on Kyra’s Law” are absolutely correct: the children of New York were betrayed by the State Assembly.

As a physician, I am a NYS mandated reporter.  This means I have a legal and ethical obligation to address abuse when I see evidence of it.   As a pediatric ophthalmologist, I have borne witness to babies who were shaken to death, and seen children harmed in other, terrible ways by family members.   All of us “in authority” have an obligation to do whatever we can to protect the most vulnerable in our society.  “In authority” most certainly includes legislators.

I knew Kyra Franchetti personally, not as a patient, and my soul was shaken by her murder.  No parent should bury their child because Family Court discounted accounts of abuse.  What kind of society fails to enact laws that protects the lives of babies and children?   “Parent’s rights” are an absurd conceit when there is evidence of imminent threat to a child’s well-being or life.   With this in mind, why have Assemblymember Charles Lavine and Speaker Carl Heastie failed to pass legislation that would protect children in Family Court?   Kyra’s Law has been a bill for eight years, and Lavine and Heastie have failed to advance it.    During these years, 35 New York children – 11 in the last year alone – have been murdered by family members. How many of these 35 murders would have been prevented by this legislation?  If the answer is 1, isn’t that enough of a reason for Kyra’s Law to become a New York State law?

Kyra’s Law prioritizes the safety of the child and mandates judicial training on family violence.   If physicians and nurses, and teachers are obligated to undergo training to recognize and understand family violence (which we are), shouldn’t the judges sitting on these cases have at least the same level of education?   Child custody cases involving family violence are too often a matter of life and death. How can we allow NYS to go another year with unskilled and untrained judges? It is unconscionable.

Why are Lavine and Heastie opposed to such a sensible and important law?   Whose interest do they represent in opposing Kyra’s Law?   As a matter of conscience, they should immediately call the NYS Assembly back to session and pass this critical bill.

Eric Lichtenstein, MD

Great Neck

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