Forensic Pathologists

With the National shortage in Forensic Pathologists, the Cowlitz County Coroner's Office is privileged to have the following Forensic Pathologists to support our office and this community when it comes to autopsy needs:

Dr. Cliff Nelson
Dr. Emmanuel Lacsina

Dr. Martha Burt


What is forensic pathology?

Forensic pathology is a subspecialty of pathology that investigates non-natural or suspicious deaths, often referred to as reportable deaths. Forensic pathology focuses on determining the cause of death via postmortem examinations or autopsies.

What is a reportable death?

A reportable death is any death that occurs unexpectedly such as when a person has not been under medical care for heart, lung, or other diseases. Reportable deaths may include:

Deaths suspected of stemming from violence, suicide, or drug/alcohol intoxication

Death of a person in custody of law enforcement or a ward of the state

Unexpected deaths or deaths due to work

Maternal deaths during or post pregnancy

Death of an infant or child without established pre-existing medical conditions

Deaths suspected to be the result of infectious or contagious diseases

Deaths attributable to environmental exposures.

What is a forensic pathologist?

Forensic pathologists are physicians who investigate these unexpected, suspicious, and unnatural deaths, typically by performing autopsies. Their work involves both medical and legal matters including testifying in court. Forensic pathologists require a fellowship in forensic pathology after training and certification in anatomic/clinical pathology.

Where do forensic pathologists work?

Most forensic pathologists are governmental employees in the medical examiner’s or coroner’s offices at the county and state levels. However, some forensic pathologists also provide consultation services to attorneys, families, and others. Depending on medical examiner or coroner office policies, forensic pathologists in such settings typically perform forensic (medicolegal) autopsies to determine the cause of death, the identity of the decedent, document injuries and/or disease, collect evidence, and assist in the determination of the manner of death.

Are forensic pathologists considered doctors?

Yes, forensic pathologists are physicians trained in traditional medicine and the forensic sciences. With their training, they have gained a working knowledge of toxicology, trace evidence, wound ballistics, DNA technology, and forensic serology.