GNOME's Sandler: Is there a killer in the code?

Paula Rooney | ZDNet | September 25, 2011

Imagine if your life depended on software –and the source code was proprietary? That’s the dilemma faced by recently-appointed GNOME executive director Karen Sandler. who was diagnosed with a serious heart condition in 2006 that required the implantation of a cardioverter defibrillator.

Yes, the software running her defibrillator , a Medtronic EnTrust cardioverter — is proprietary. It is perhaps ironic that Sandler was an attorney at the Software Freedom Law Center in 2006. Yet in spite of her depth of knowledge about software, she was unable to convince the manufacturer to give her access to the code.

As she mulled the software dilemma, her medical team advised her to move forward with the procedure or risk sudden death. Her IMD was implanted in 2008. “I have a high risk of suddenly dying. I can’t think about running to catch a bus or I might keel over,” said Sandler, 36, who opened up about her personal situation at OSCON 2011 in an effort to educate the audience about the plight of millions of Implantable Medical Devices (IMD) recipients.

“I asked the doctor what [software] the device ran and he looked at me like Iwas mad …. I called three major defribullator manufacturers and asked if I [could] see the source code since I’m going to put [the device]in my body and I’d feel more comfortable knowing what’s connected to my heart and that went nowhere. I offered to sign an NDA …