Sarsılmaz was working as a doctor at the Gülhane Military Academy of Medicine (GATA) when Özal's body was taken there for analysis. However, doctors at the academy did not conduct an autopsy on the former president. The professor also discussed in a handwritten diary his memories associated with Özal's death and the former president being taken to GATA, which he shared with Aksiyon.
Özal's death has so far remained a matter of controversy. Though his private doctor declared that the former president died of a heart attack, his wife, children and close friends later alleged that he might have been poisoned. The State Audit Institution (DDK) launched an investigation earlier this year into the cause of Özal's death.
Sarsılmaz told Aksiyon about his concerns over the death of Özal, saying: “It seems to me that the death of Özal was an act to get rid of a man who greatly served the [Turkish] state and the nation. It could have been an international [assassination] plot. They [actors of the plot] might have got rid of him in a professional manner.” According to the professor, the former president may have been poisoned.
The professor regrets not having taken a few of Özal's hairs or pieces of tissues from his body when the body was taken to GATA. He said he could have performed an autopsy to determine the actual cause of the death of the ex-president using the hairs and tissues. “I felt puzzled. I could have taken a few of his hairs,” he told the newsweekly. However, Sarsılmaz, said Özal's body suggested that he had not been subjected to physical violence before he passed away. “I examined his body to understand why he could have died. He did not seem to have received a blow. Nor did he seem to have been treated roughly. He had a beautiful, pink face,” Sarsılmaz said.
A recent report drafted by the DDK about the death of Özal also found that it was suspicious that Özal did not undergo an autopsy after he was pronounced dead. The report also suggested that Özal's grave be opened and his body exhumed for a detailed analysis as part of the ongoing investigation into his suspicious death.
The lack of an autopsy on Özal's body has so far remained a matter of controversy between Özal's doctor and his family members. Özal's doctor, Cengiz Aslan, claimed that the family of the former president did not ask for an autopsy to be carried out on Özal, but the Özal family denied the claim. In addition, there were earlier inconsistencies and unexpected problems that arose following Özal's supposed heart attack. On the day of his death his in-house doctor and nurse were both out, that house staff were not able to start the ambulance due to a technical problem, that there was no first aid equipment at the presidential residence and other similar issues led to suspicion surrounding the death of the former president.