Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has announced that he and Minister for Health James Reilly have started work on preparation of "open disclosure" legislation for hospitals.

This would involve hospitals and medical personnel having to inform patients or families of medical incidents and failures that have caused harm or which are responsible for the death of a patient.

It follows RTÉ Investigations Unit revelations about the deaths of babies at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.

Last week, it was revealed that four babies had died under similar circumstances at the hospital.

Addressing the Family Lawyers Association of Ireland, Mr Shatter said: "I believe that if hospitals were to investigate an incident and to admit liability quickly once medical negligence had been established, such reform would be much more beneficial to families.

"It would avoid families having to go to court to prove that medical negligence had actually occurred. Families would not have to incur the same level of costs for medical reports and legal advice.

"The focus would be more properly on the appropriate damages payable. A reform of this nature could achieve a better outcome for patients and families without generating large increases in costs to the taxpayer.

"Indeed, it would mean that taxpayers money would no longer be wasted by State agencies seeking to defend the indefensible."

He said the manner in which Portlaoise Hospital treated families, as revealed in recent days, was inexcusable.

He said: "There can be no valid excuse for the manner in which some families were treated by Portlaoise Hospital as disclosed in recent days."