The family of a 73-year-old woman who is gravely ill with cervical cancer has said they fear she will not live to see her High Court case resolved if mediation fails to achieve a settlement.

Joan Lucey's legal team had previously pleaded in court twice for mediation to begin as lawyers described her as being "on her death bed".

A commitment was given in court this morning to begin mediation next week.

However, her family later issued a statement to say the move was welcome, but it was regrettable it took so many applications before the court.

They said the stress of the ongoing litigation and uncertainty surrounding agreement to mediate had an adverse effect on her and they fear Mrs Lucey will not survive long enough to see the end of the High Court case, should mediation fail.

The statement continued: "She will not be able to give evidence. She is too weak.

"We would love to be able to tell her the case is resolved (after mediation) next Tuesday. However, if the case does not settle we will fight the case for our mother."

The family said they now have to prepare to give evidence in the case as early as next week if mediation fails when they "should be spending time comforting our mother in her final days".

They said they recently learned that if their mother dies before the conclusion of the case, a large portion of her case will die with her.

Earlier today, the High Court was told Mrs Lucey has been given a commitment from the Health Service Executive and two laboratories they will attend mediation talks next week.

Yesterday, her lawyers said she was only being offered "hollow sympathy" from the HSE.

They told the court the HSE would not take up an invitation to enter direct mediation until other legal issues were resolved.

The case had been adjourned for a day after Mr Justice Kevin Cross urged all parties to enter mediation.

Today, the court heard that talks will begin next Tuesday afternoon and will also involve a third party joined in the proceedings by US laboratory CPL.

Mrs Lucey, a retired nurse from Kerry, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2019 after up to nine smear tests in the previous eight years were reported as negative.

Her High Court action relates to two cervical smear tests she had in 2011. She went public last week as fears were growing that a large part of her case may die with her.

Yesterday, Mrs Lucey's lawyers said she is on her death bed and it was very difficult to explain to her why the HSE would not accept the invitation to sit down with her legal team and mediate the case next Tuesday.

The HSE wanted the other parties at the table as well, the court was told.

Her barrister Oonah McCrann said it was "simply cruel and incomprehensible", adding that Mrs Lucey "needs to know whether the case is going to mediation next Tuesday or does she have to face a trial".

The court has previously heard the laboratories were baulking at engaging in mediation until a third party issue has been resolved.

Mrs Lucey, 73, from Cooleen, Dingle, Co Kerry has sued the HSE, Clinical Pathology Laboratories Incorporated  (CPL) with headquarters in Austin, Texas, USA  and  MedLab Pathology Ltd with registered offices at Sandyford Business Park, Dublin over the alleged misreading, misinterpretation or misreporting of her cervial smear tests taken in February 2011 and August 2011.

In February 2011, Mrs Lucey had a smear test that it is claimed was tested by CPL under the supervision of MedLab and this came back as negative with a recommendation for the repeat smear in six months.

It is also claimed that Mrs Lucey was referred to the Scotia Clinic, Tralee, Co Kerry on 29 April 2011 where a swab came back as negative and she was advised she was HPV negative.

In August 2011, it is claimed Mrs Lucey had a repeat smear which was tested by the CPL under the supervision of MedLab and was reported as negative with a repeat smear recommended in a year.

For the subsequent seven years, Mrs Lucey had annual smear tests taken by her GP all of which were reported as negative.

She also had a smear test and a HPV test in October 2018, which were reported as negative in May 2019.

After that, Mrs Lucey got a letter from CervicalCheck advising that she had completed her cervical screening.

In December 2018, Mrs Lucey began to suffer from fatigue and she developed lower back pain in May 2019.

She was later admitted to hospital for investigations and an MRI scan showed cervical cancer.

It is claimed that notwithstanding undergoing regular smear tests as advised, cytological cell changes in Mrs Lucey were allegedly allowed to develop and spread unidentified, unmonitored and untreated until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in July 2019.

All the claims are denied.

Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) has also joined as a third-party in the proceedings consultant obstetrician Dr Mary McCaffrey of The Scotia Clinic, Tralee, Co Kerry.

CPL has claimed there was an alleged failure to assess or investigate Mrs Lucey when she attended the clinic on 29 April 2011 and it is claimed it resulted in an alleged missed opportunity to diagnose pre-invasive disease.

The claims are denied.

Additional reporting Seán Mac an tSíthigh