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St. Petersburg, Florida

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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Doctors Are Not Plumbers

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Are patients unfairly alleging malpractice when their doctors make a mistake? Should a professional, such as a doctor, be cut some slack because he didn’t mean any harm? Peter Coffee, who apparently works in the field of software security, has posted an opinion article on the concepts of professionalism and malpractice that is right on point.

Opinion: If practice makes perfect, does imperfect make malpractice?

You don’t need to speak of malpractice in a field such as plumbing, because a layman knows a leaky pipe when he sees one–but it takes a top-flight coder to go through a nontrivial program and quickly spot the kind of flaw that’s potentially dangerous.

It’s therefore necessary for developers to be a self-scrutinizing community–one that can say with credibility not only when something wrong has been done but also when due care has not been taken.

Acts of omission matter. Malpractice is not limited only to fraud, deceit or other acts of commission, but it also includes culpable failure to know or to do.

The classic example is a lawyer who fails to file suit before a statute of limitations deadline has expired: The client can’t be expected to bird-dog his attorney on such matters.

Crucially, there’s also ample precedent for the idea that failure to know and comply with applicable laws and regulations is, by definition, a negligent act of omission.

Faced with a growing number of laws and regulations affecting software development and use, software practitioners must therefore work that much harder to avoid such errors.