THE legal costs of medical negligence last year reached €32m.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed it had paid out a total of €81m to settle claims over medical negligence or hospital errors in 2011.
The €81m figure was a jump of almost €2m on a year earlier -- at a time when overall health budgets are being slashed.
And with the legal costs making up 40pc of the total, health experts have said a mediation system is needed to save money.
Oireachtas Health Committee chairman Jerry Buttimer TD (FG) said the €81m total represented an increase of 2.4pc on the amount paid out in 2010.
"This is a worryingly large amount of money which could be put to better use elsewhere in the health service."
He said the large percentage of the sum accounted for by legal fees was a matter of even greater concern.
"Some €32m of the overall amount went to HSE legal defence teams -- that is around 40pc. This is despite a cap being introduced on the legal teams' fees, which has reduced them by more than 20pc."