A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said the parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have "failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims" that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be reinserted immediately.
In a 2-to-1 ruling, the judges acknowledged the "absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo," but supported a lower court's refusal to order feeding resumed.
"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," the ruling by Judges Ed Carnes and Frank Hull said.
In his dissent, Judge Charles 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.
Doctors have estimated that Terri Schiavo, 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," Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, said shortly after arriving in Tallahassee early Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. "My sister is in her fifth day, and it's just hard to say."
Schiavo's feeding tube was disconnected last Friday on the orders of a state judge, which led to an extraordinary push by Congress over the weekend to pass a bill -- signed by President Bush early Monday morning -- to have Schiavo's case reviewed by federal courts.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore ruled that he would not issue an emergency order to restore the feeding tube, saying the parents had not established a "substantial likelihood of success" at a trial. Then, in another blow to the Schindler's case, a federal judge in Tampa Tuesday also rejected the parents' emergency request.
After losing their second consecutive appeal in federal court, Schiavo's parents vowed Wednesday to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The Schindlers will be filing an appropriate appeal to save their daughter's life," said the couple's attorney, Rex Sparklin.
The Schindlers have been battled for years with Schiavo's husband over whether her feeding tube should be disconnected. State courts have sided with Michael Schiavo, who insists his wife had previously told him she would never want to be kept alive artificially.
Even before the parents' appeal was filed with the 11th Circuit, Michael Schiavo urged the court not to grant an emergency request to restore nutrition.
Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, filed a response to the Schindlers' appeal and said he would go to the Supreme Court if the tube were ordered reconnected.
"That would be a horrific intrusion upon Mrs. Schiavo's personal liberty," said the court filing.
Meanwhile, the Schindlers have pleaded with Florida lawmakers, who failed last week to pass a bill to prolong their daughter's life, to renew their efforts. The Florida legislature may consider another bill Wednesday, but state Sen. Daniel Webster said he has yet to persuade any lawmakers to change their votes.
The Rev. Pat Mahoney, a Schindler family supporter, acknowledged Wednesday that their legal options have diminished and urged the state Legislature to intervene.
"Let it be known to every voter in Florida, the fate of Terri Schiavo is in the Florida Senate's hands," he said.
In court documents, the Schindlers said their daughter began "a significant decline" late Monday, following the removal of the feeding tube Friday afternoon.