Their options dwindling after two failed federal court appeals, Terri Schiavo's parents and brother vowed Wednesday to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court and state Legislature as the brain-damaged woman was in her fifth day without a feeding tube.
Gov. Jeb Bush renewed his call for the Legislature to step in and "spare Terri's life."
In a 2-1 ruling early Wednesday, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said the parents, who have battled with their son-in-law for years over the woman's fate, "failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims" that Terri's feeding tube should be reinserted immediately.
"There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo," the ruling by Judges Ed Carnes and Frank M. Hull said. "We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law."
Wednesday's ruling was the latest legal blow for Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler. Doctors have said that their daughter, now 41, could survive one to two weeks without water and nutrients.
"It's hard to put into words how we're feeling right now. ... It's just hard to say," Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, said after arriving in Tallahassee Wednesday.
Attorneys for the husband, Michael Schiavo, did not immediately return phone calls and e-mails requesting comment Wednesday.
In a Wednesday statement, the governor said he "could not be more disappointed in the decision announced this morning."
"Time is of the essence and I hope all who have the ability and duty to act in this case will do so with a sense of urgency," Gov. Bush said.
In his dissent to the appeals court ruling, Judge Charles R. Wilson said Schiavo's "imminent" death would end the case before it could be fully considered. "In fact, I fail to see any harm in reinserting the feeding tube," he wrote.
Wilson and Hull were appointed to the appeals court by President Clinton, while Carnes was appointed by former President Bush.
An appeal was still pending in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on whether Schiavo's right to due process was violated.
On Tuesday, a federal judge in Tampa also rejected the parents' emergency request.
Rex Sparklin, an attorney with the law firm representing the parents, said Wednesday that the couple will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The Schindlers will be filing an appropriate appeal to save their daughter's life," he said. The high court has previously refused to hear Schiavo's case.
Howard Simon of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the ruling pointed out the limited role of government in these matters and the need for a living will "to keep politicians out of your personal life."
"I do think we are coming to the end of this sad case," he said.
The Schindlers have long battled Schiavo's husband over whether her feeding tube should be disconnected. State courts have sided with Michael Schiavo, who insists his wife told him she would never want to be kept alive artificially.
Michael Schiavo has repeatedly urged courts not to grant an emergency request and restore nutrition. The tube had been pulled Friday afternoon.
"That would be a horrific intrusion upon Mrs. Schiavo's personal liberty," said an appeals court filing by his attorney, George Felos.
The Legislature had stepped in before, in 2003, and her feeding tube was reinserted after six days at that time. But "Terri's Law" was later struck down as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.
More recently, Florida lawmakers had failed to pass new legislation that could have prevented the removal of the tube. They may consider another bill Wednesday, and state Sen. Daniel Webster, the bill's sponsor, said it would be the measure's last chance.
"Today is it," said Webster, a Republican, who said Wednesday he still isn't certain he has enough votes to push the measure through. "But I'm going to try."
The state House could take up the bill very quickly if the Senate sends it, according to a spokesman for Speaker Allan Bense. After Wednesday, both chambers are in recess until next week.
Mary Schindler has pleaded with state lawmakers to save her daughter's life.
"Please, senators, for the love of God, I'm begging you, don't let my daughter die of thirst," she said Tuesday outside her daughter's hospice.
Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly from a chemical imbalance believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. Court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.
Her parents _ who told the appeals court that her condition is rapidly deteriorating _ argue that she could get better and that she would never have wanted to be cut off from food and water.
An emergency filing to the high court would go first to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who has staked a moderate position on social issues.
The Supreme Court's history on right-to-die cases is pretty thin.
It ruled in 1990 that a terminally ill person has a right to refuse life-sustaining treatment. And next term it plans to consider whether the federal government can prosecute doctors who help ill patients die.
Between those cases, the court has not said much, choosing to allow states to decide the issue.
Demonstrators who gathered outside Terri Schiavo's hospice decried the courts' decisions. One woman was arrested Tuesday for trespassing after trying to bring Schiavo a cup of water, and another group claimed they would risk arrest in a similar manner later Wednesday morning.
"This is a clear-cut case of judicial tyranny," said Tammy Melton, 37, a high school teacher from Monterey, Tenn. But Richard Avant, who lives down the street from the hospice, carried a sign reading "Honor her wishes."
Over the weekend, Republicans in Congress pushed through unprecedented emergency legislation aimed at prolonging Schiavo's life by allowing the case to be reviewed by federal courts.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore of Tampa rejected the parents' request to have the tube reinserted, saying they had not established a "substantial likelihood of success" at a trial.
MARK LONG Associated Press
In a weary world of endless US military interventions, sanctions, trade tariffs and chaos, let’s pause and take stock of the shining house on the hill