Professor Brian Lieberman

Professor Brian Lieberman

Professor Brian Lieberman was a leading figure in the field of fertility, and set up the first NHS assisted conception service.

His trainee and colleague, Cheryl Fitzgerald has composed an obituary for Professor Lieberman.

It was with great sadness that we heard about the death of Brian Lieberman.

Brian was born in February 1942 in a suburb of Johannesburg, where he spent his childhood and attended Witwatersrand University to study medicine. During the 50s, 60s and 70s, South Africa was in the grip of apartheid and the injustices that Brian and his family witnessed, shaped his lifelong determination to fight prejudice and injustice.

After qualifying, Brian worked briefly in Israel before returning to South Africa where he decided to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology. During that time, he was asked to deliver a talk to the Gynaecological Travellers. Sir George Pinker was in the audience and was so impressed by Brian’s enthusiasm that he offered him a post at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. The family moved to London in 1971, where Brian worked until 1978, during which time he developed a flair for laparoscopic surgery and was involved in the perfection of laparoscopic sterilisation.

He was appointed as a consultant at St Mary’s, Manchester in 1978 where he quickly developed an interest in infertility. The birth of Louise Brown in July 1978, conceived following treatment in Oldham, inspired Brian to develop a service to help patients with fertility problems in Manchester. Through a combination of enthusiasm and dogged determination, he secured £30 000 to set up an IVF service within an NHS hospital at St Mary’s in Manchester in 1982; the first NHS unit in the UK. IVF is now an integral part of NHS health care and the unit in St Mary’s remains one of the largest NHS providers of IVF in the UK; Brian will always be remembered as the person who started both.

Brian was one of the founding fathers of IVF in the UK. The Warnock report in 1982 led to the establishment of the HFEA, in which Brian had a pivotal role for six years, from its inception. He fought for the rights of unmarried patients to access treatment, he started the Egg and Embryo Donation Society and strove to reduce the incidence of multiple births after IVF treatment, to improve the health of babies born after treatment; in so many ways he was ahead of his time.

Brian established a highly successful research programme at St Mary’s and was a keen member of the BFS. He was involved in the development of the human embryo research programme, including embryonic stem cell research. He started the first fertility preservation service investigating ovarian tissue transplantation before oncology treatment. He was concerned about the health of children conceived after IVF and related procedures, so became involved in looking at long term outcomes. As a result of his research portfolio he was awarded an Honorary Professorship in 2006 and Honorary Membership of the BFS in 2018.

In addition to Brian’s professional achievements, he also played squash and golf, enjoyed walking and ski-ing, travelled extensively and was an avid Manchester United fan, but the main joy of his life was his family.

There are many of us with such fond memories Brian. He will be remembered by us for his enthusiasm, determination and charisma; more importantly he will be remembered by so many patients as the person who gave them their family.