First, a bit of background
-- patents historically are limited to things man invents, not things man discovers. For example, as per the show, one cannot patent gravity, E=MC2, coal, or plants.
-- however, farm corporations have been known to patent plant genes for food and other crops. The sidenote to this is that they actually hold the patent to genetically modified plant genes, not the natural one.
-- Myriad holds the patent to both BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 as they happen naturally, in the human body. They have not genetically altered this.
-- the ACLU and other plaintiffs are suing Myriad to release the patent. The court case has now been delayed until February 2, but the plaintiffs have already stated an intent to use this case as precedent to release other gene patents, some of which are held by corporations, others by individuals and even universities.
A few articles that might be of interest to you as you research to form an opinion (and please do use your Google PhD to research above and beyond this):
Fact Sheet -- BRCA: Genes and Patents (note: published by ACLU, but very useful breakdown of the particulars)
Insider article: Can ACLU Expect to Win Its BRCA Gene Patenting Case Before it Even Gets to Trial?
Associated Content article: Myriad's Patent of BRCA Gene is Contested by the ACLU in Court
Argument A (presented by Hans Sauer, Associate General Counsel for Intellectual Property for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, known as BIO) is that discovering a gene, creating a screening test for it, and working within it has cost over $200 million dollars, and will cost over a billion across 10 years. The revenue made from the patent creates venture capital for additional research. Holding a patent is a motivation to discover and use.
Argument B (PDF here) (presented by Chris Hansen, Senior National Staff Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union) states that the patents stifles competition, creates a monopoly on price (held at high cost of $3000, usually not covered for women), prohibits improvement on the testing process, limits women on ability to get adequate information when facing a major medial and/or surgical decision (Myriad will not allow any lab other than their own to test, and therefore there is no second opinion, for example), and infringes on the legal allowance for patents.
In general, the argument sticks to two sides: patent or no patent. However, during discussion other experts offered up middle-ground solutions that involve patent pools and non-exclusivity agreements.
What do you think -- should gene patenting be allowed? And if so, with what protections for us, the humans who carry the genes?