Conjoined Twins, Together Forever

ByABC News
September 6, 2006, 2:36 PM

Sept. 8, 2006 — -- For an episode of the TV series "Nip/Tuck," guest star Reba Schappell had to convince her sister Lori to go into show business with her.

They played conjoined twins who had agreed to be separated because one was dying of cancer.

In real life, the Schappells are well known for appearances on TV, in documentaries, and in the film "Stuck on You."

Reba is the actress. She also has recorded country music.

Lori doesn't consider herself part of that world. But if Reba wants a part, Lori has to be there, too.

At the age of 45, the Schappell sisters are believed to be among the oldest living conjoined twins in the world.

If one died before the other, they say, the survivor would choose separation but only under that circumstance.

Otherwise, Lori said, "We would choose not to be separated. God has a purpose for every human being he puts on this Earth. He makes them in his own image. And he made us in his image. And who are we to question what God made?"

The Schappells are among a small percentage of conjoined twins who are joined at the head.

Because their heads face opposite directions, they have seen each other only by using mirrors.

Reba was born with a spinal defect and cannot walk. Lori wheels her sister on a specially made chair and spends most of her time standing.

They have distinctly separate personalities.

The example they've set with their lives has influenced how some experts think about a decision many take for granted: that conjoined twins should be separated if possible.

"I think most people feel like that's the only option," said Dr. Alice Dreger, a bioethicist and medical historian at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

"What really surprised me is when I looked back through history, I found that over and over again they [conjoined twins] said that not only were they OK with being conjoined, many of them actually felt that this was a superior state that this was better because they went through the world with somebody with them, with somebody very close to them."