Handling errors

It is pretty common to encounter errors while parsing (external) FHIR data - in fact so common that the Firely .NET SDK does not consider them true Exceptions but instead employs streaming error reporting for the parser classes. With streaming error reporting, you can subscribe to errors occuring in these components by installing a callback. When an error is encountered while parsing, this callback will be called with details about the error. There are several advantages to this approach:

  • Since errors are common, we avoid the cost of raising a true .NET exception and the associated unwrapping of the stack.

  • The parser will report errors as you navigate through the instance. This also means you can stop or halt wherever it fits your usecase.

  • You are not limited to processing just the first error. As long as you continue navigating the instance, parsing will continue.

All components in the SDK (there are a few in addition to the parsers) that support streaming error reporting implement the IExceptionSource interface. It has a single property ExceptionHandler, which is a .NET delegate:

public delegate void ExceptionNotificationHandler(object source, ExceptionNotification args);

public interface IExceptionSource
    ExceptionNotificationHandler ExceptionHandler { get; set; }

On encountering an error, such a component will invoke the delegate, passing it an ExceptionNotification, which is basically a wrapper around an (unraised) exception, with an additional message and severity.

Note that, if there is no such delegate installed, a component (in this case the parser) will just raise the exception instead.

Working with IExceptionSource

Installing a delegate by setting the ExceptionHandler property like this is feasible, but it is easy to forget to unregister the delegate (leading to unexpected call backs or memory leaks). In addition, you should check whether there was already a previously installed handler, which you to might need to forward the exception to once you have handled it.

To make working with ExceptionHandler easier, we have added a Catch() extension method to IExceptionSource, which returns an IDisposable, so you can use the returned value in a using statement like so:

List<Exception> allExceptions = new List<Exception>();
var src = FhirXmlNode.Parse("....");

using (src.Catch((_, arg) => allExceptions.Add(arg.Exception)))
    // navigate through src, or feed the instance to another
    // consumer, which will navigate it for you:
    var poco = src.ToPoco();

This will install your error callback, and uninstall it when the flow leaves the using block. Catch() has a forward argument which you can set to true to indicate whether you need to forward the errors to a handler that might have been installed before calling Catch().

If you are just interested in triggering all errors, you can do so by visiting the complete tree, catching the errors in the meantime:

using (src.Catch((_, arg) => allExceptions.Add(arg.Exception)))

or even more concise:

List<ExceptionNotification> errors = src.VisitAndCatch();